Hope and peace in loss

I was very affected this past spring when Steven Curtis Chapman and his family lost their little girl. I have often thought about them and even more so now since we lost our baby...understanding even more of the pain and hurt they feel in their hearts as they grieve her loss. My sister sent me this clip where Steven shares of the hope and peace he has even in the midst of extreme loss. I was encouraged by it...encouraged by the hope that he shares and the way he is so honoring God and adorning the gospel through the trial he and his family are walking through.

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Order in the waves

My sadness and grief continues to come in waves. Today was a very good day...then a wave hit hard this evening. Upon my request, my sister gave me one of the Christmas cards that she send out this year...it included a picture of Alivia on the inside. Most of the pictures I see of my little one are on the wall in our living room. There is something different when I actually hold one in my hand and see her up close. Recently, a friend had some copies of pictures made for me. As I flipped through them up close, they were so crisp and clear, it was almost as if I wanted to reach out and grab my little girl. But I couldn't. Same with tonight. I held the card in my hand and saw her little face, her tiny fingers and features...little nose and bright eyes. All I can say is it was a hard wave. At those moments the reality of what has happened hits hard, very hard. I was just holding her, kissing her tiny head and cheeks, now she's gone. How I miss her.

However, with every wave of grief, I am met with a wave of grace. For that I am so grateful. There is grace to cry, even sob sometimes, grace to dry my eyes, grace to get up, grace to take my next baby step. As hard as it is right now, and despite not always feeling it, there is grace.

As I thought about this tonight, I was immediately reminded of a Spurgeon quote that I have been reading a lot the past few weeks. It has helped with my very real and intense fears lately. With all the waves I am experiencing, may God help me to not give way to fear, but instead see order in the waves.

"We will not fear." Ps. 46:2

" 'The very hairs of your head are all numbered' (Matt. 10:30). This verse literally means what it says. God's wisdom and knowledge are so great that he even knows the number of hairs on your head. His providence descends to the minute dust particles in a summer storm. He numbers the gnats in the sunshine and the fish in the sea. He controls the massive planets that shine in the heavens, and He deals with the teardrops that trickle from your eyes. He who supports the dignity of His throne in the splendor of heaven maintains it in the depths of the dark sea. There is nothing above, under, or around you that is not determined by His counsel and will.

I am not a fatalist, but I strictly hold to the doctrine that God has decreed all things that come to pass and that He rules over all things for His glory and good. What have we to fear? The unbeliever looks at the lightning and is apprehensive, but the Christian believes that it follows a predestined path, and he contemplates it with confidence. At sea, when the waves dash against a ship and toss it to and fro, some panic because they think that this is all chance. But believers see order in the waves. They hear music in the wind and are at peace because the tempest is in God's hand. Why then should we fear?

In all this world's convulsions, in all temporary distress and danger, we can remain calm, collected, and boldly say with confidence, 'I know God is here and all this is working for my good.' 'Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling' (Ps. 46:2).

Think on these things." - Spurgeon

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Why I blog

I don't think I have ever blogged so consistently and frequently over the years since I started my blog...no not ever. I have often asked myself, "why am I doing this?"..."why take so much time to do something that is often hard and tedious?"

1. It serves me. I have tried to journal and remember all the wonderful things the Lord is doing in this season...but journaling is too hard for me right now. I'm not sure why, but it is. Blogging is easier. And I find that it helps me process my thoughts, and at the same time preach truth to myself...truth that I need to hear.
2. It encourages me. It is not uncommon for me to sit at my computer a number of times a day and go back and read posts of all the Lord is doing in and through this trial. Sometimes I am not sure how I wrote what I did or thought through something like I did...so it encourages me to see sustaining grace at work in my weak life right now.
3. To update others. It has been our desire, from the very beginning of this all, to have others in our lives and walk this road with us because we need them! I want everyone to know where I am, what my struggles are so they can be aware and be better informed.
4. So others can pray. To piggy back on #3, when others are specifically informed, I know they can more specifically pray for us. This seems so selfish, but it's the truth...we desperately need the prayers of others.
5. To hear from others. Although not many have, I love it when others "comment" on my blog. I love to hear from others...those I know and even those I don't know. So, please drop a note, if you'd like. I have been able to connect with some people I've never even met before and it has been a blessing to me.
6. To impart faith. It is in no way our desire to cause anyone to struggle or fear with thoughts of, "what if this or that happened to me?" Instead, we hope that our trial imparts faith that our good, sovereign and merciful Lord does indeed help in time of need. We are living testimonies that He not only helps, but helps abundantly..."The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lam. 3:22-23). We are experiencing the grace that we have only ever heard others in great trials speak of. And we know it's real and felt. It is so true that there is not grace for your imagination. I could NEVER have imagined being able to walk through something like this and the truth is that I am not able, but my God is able to carry me through it...and He is. So, may this impart faith that whatever the Lord calls His children to walk through, He will sustain and help them.
7. To further the gospel. It is my prayer that the Lord will use this difficult time to draw hearts to Himself and that He will save souls. And for those who are believers already, it's my desire and prayer that this blog, as it has for me, will remind us of the gospel and how much we desperately need our Savior, and Him alone, each and every day of our lives.
8. Most importantly, for my girlies (and any future children the Lord would bless us with). This was and is one of the main reasons I started blogging so frequently. My mind is mush right now and I know that even just a year down the road, these initial days are going to be a blur to me. But I want something for my girls to read so they can see how our faithful Lord met their mama...how He sustained her, carried her, and made Himself real to her. I want this trial, as I wrote above, to further gospel purposes in their lives.

...this is why I blog.

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Mark and Kel

Also affectionately known to many as the Ploons, I get the tremendous privilege to know them as my sister and brother-in-law. They have walked this hard road with us from the very beginning and have been by our side every step of the way. Much of how they serve is done behind the scenes for few to see. Being Kel's sister, I have a better idea of all the ways they serve and, particularly have served us, the past number of weeks. But I am also aware that I probably only know little...but for that I want to honor them. They are 2 of the greatest servants I know...and I don't say that lightly. I honestly feel like they have put their lives on hold for this season, so to effectively serve and care for us. And that's no easy thing to do with 4 kids of their own, being care group leaders, and having VERY busy schedules. Yet, they have.

Mark and Kelly were the first faces I saw when we arrived at the hospital that night that seems so long ago, yet also seems like yesterday. For the 2 weeks following, my sister arranged babysitters for all her kids, many of those days so she could be with us. In fact, for days she stayed at the Lees overnight to serve us. She cared for Mckenna and Selah and helped arrange sitters for them and often put them to bed at night for us and got them ready in the morning. She also was behind the scenes arranging food, the work being done on our house, details for the memorial service and on and on I could go. She was sick in the midst of all this, exhausted, but you would never have known. Mark took off a whole week from work to serve, help care for their kiddos to free Kel up and be with us as well. I know I am forgetting tons...

Since arriving home, Mark and Kel have continued to amaze us by their care. Kelly stayed here for an number of days and nights after we arrived. She took my girls to the doctor when they were sick and was even sick herself (with strep!)...cared for her sick kids and still continued to serve us...She has cooked countless meals for us, cleaned my house, has come over numerous times, even if just to be here with me on hard days. I don't know how she does it, especially with all that is on her plate.

The thing I love about Kel is that she foresees things in advance, even often before I do - knows that evenings are hard, that Sundays can be challenging, that the 2nd and 26th of the month are very tough for me...she foresees and I find often shows up, offers to do something, or will just be with me. Sometimes it's not until after that I realize..."that's why she came or did that." Kelly is one of the most sensitive and caring people I know. Many times a week, she sends me emails with Scriptures and quotes...often saying something like, "I prayed through these verses for you today" and encouraging my heart with well-timed words. Something else I love about my sister is that she has always loved my girlies as if they were her own. And because of that, losing Alivia has been especially hard for her. I've seen it and I ache for her at times. She loved that little girl of mine and I think misses her just about as much as we do. And I know that all she is doing for us is just because she can't live any other way during this time - that's the amazing person my sister is!

Mark, is the backbone of my sister in so many ways. He has cared for Dave through conversations, taking him out to the shooting range, and even playing foosball with Dave. He has released my sister in so many ways and has sacrificed financially as well in more ways that we probably are aware.

Mark and Kel, I feel as if you guys define the word care. Thank you for being with us through this trial...thanks for bearing it with us. Thank you for all your offers to help, for being so incredibly selfless and sacrificial over the past number of weeks. Thank you for being so sensitive to how things affect us and for always asking questions when you are not sure what will or will not serve us. God has used you in countless ways to encourage my heart and reveal to me that He is real and good. You have been such a means of grace and provision to us. Thanks for missing our little girl with us, crying with us and longing for heaven with us. I know I can't adequately thank you both, but I do look forward to one day, when we are reunited with Alivia, hearing the Savior honor you in ways that I cannot. How I long for that day! Until then, my feeble efforts must do...and feeble they are because only the Lord knows how you have given, cared and served us. I'm so grateful. I love you both.

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Peace

On Christmas night, as we were packing up to leave my mom's house, my sister handed me a card. When I got in the car I read it...

I should back up and mention that we chose Alivia's first name simply because we just liked it. Her middle name is after my mom and I had looked forward to one day telling my girl all about the incredible woman she was named after. I'm sure the Lord is doing that right now.

Then on her first week check-up her doctor asked me what her name meant. I told him we had not even looked it up yet, to my shame. I was even surprised myself that I had not found that out yet. And up until Christmas day, I still had not.

So, I get the following note from my sister:

Heath,
I am not always sure what serves you and am learning to ask. However, it hit me this morning that I did not check with you about today and if it would help to do anything to remember Alivia. So in my QT, as this all came up in my thoughts I began to feel bad - then a thought "popped" in my mind to do something I had not done before. I ran downstairs to do a search on what Alivia's name means. You may already know this. Her name means peace. For me I find today, of all days, the best to learn this. Since we celebrate the One who came to lay down his life that we might have peace with Him.

Your little girl's life directs my eyes and that of countless others to the Prince of Peace who came to seek and save us. And now each time I say her name I know in my heart it proclaims it as well.

Love you,
Kel

As I went to bed that night, facing fears and carrying a heavy heart, I prayed for peace in my heart and mind. And that the Lord would use the life of my daughter to further peace in my life. It's also my prayer that her life will also be used to bring others, who don't know our Savior, into a knowledge of, as my sister said, "the Prince of Peace who came to seek and save us."

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Helpful blog

Today I feel like I have experienced a whole new level of grief, sadness, fear and discouragement. I told Dave at one point today that I am so ready to give up...life scares me and my heart feels like it is going to explode from sadness and grief. I am so glad I know my Savior because if I didn't, I don't think I would make it through this year alive. Then, as I sat down to write this post, it dawned on me that today is Alivia's 3 month birthday. I think without even being actively aware of it, my mind really was. I often find myself avoiding knowing what day of the week or month it is, wanting to avoid the pain that sometimes comes with remembering.

I was doing some reading online today and came across Molly Piper's blog. She is the daughter-in-law of pastor and author, John Piper. They lost their baby girl in September 2007. She wrote a series on what to expect in grieving friends. I was so encouraged as I read all she had to say and found it extremely helpful. We seem very similar. I read most of her posts in this series, and everything she says is almost exactly what I have been experiencing. I kept thinking at times, "ok, this is normal." I think I have been often expecting too much from myself and feeling bad when I have days of not being able to do almost anything. I can relate to her sleeplessness, I can relate to her forgetfulness, I can relate to her experience of being humbled yet extremely grateful for all who have served, I can relate to so many of her feelings and experiences. As I read, it seemed almost as if she was writing for me.

So, I thought I would pass on a link to her series of posts on grieving. I feel almost selfish in doing so, but so many have asked how they can serve.

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Merry Christmas



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2 highlights

I had to do one more post before the close of this Christmas Eve. It's been an emotional packed day for me, yet once again, the Lord has carried me through. There were 2 highlights of this day for me:

1. The Lowes showed up at our doorstep. They sang us a Christmas carol and handed us a box of donuts and a little gift wrapped up for the girlies. Later they opened it up and I almost cried. Inside were matching Christmas nightgowns for them! No one knows, but I had wanted that for them. I had heard of a few families who did that for Christmas - got matching jammies. And I thought how special that would be...but it was no more than a passing thought. They were so excited as they put them on tonight and just had to go downstairs and show Daddy. I stood on top of the stairs and watched them walk down, side by side, eyes welling up and treasuring the moment.

Thank you, Lowes! You so made my day. You just don't know how much you blessed us today by stopping by. So grateful for you all and how you have cared for us.

2. An email I received tonight from our dear friends, the Averills. How faithful they have been to care for us. Often I am not as aware of grace, but more so of my tears, the ache in my heart, and all I am not doing or doing wrong. The words they wrote encouraged my heart and highlighted all that I have been thinking about lately...

Dearest Heather & Dave,
Just wanted to email and let you know that we've been praying for you guys and thinking of you much today... I just read some posts on your blog and were humbled and amazed yet again of the grace that has overflowed from the Savior to you both. As I read, I saw you choosing to remember Christ and to trust in Him yet again and remembered a line from Bob Kauflin's message on depression. He said that "progress that we strive for looks like telling the truth to ourselves over and over and over again" and I see you doing that...thanks so much for your example to us. We are humbled to know you and have you as our friends.

We just returned from a Christmas service here and was reminded that Christ came into a sinful and broken world full of struggle and pain because He cared and wanted to help us by making a way for us to have eternal life with Him. Because he did this, we have hope of eternal life with Him in heaven someday and we'll be able to worship the Savior together with Alivia. That will be a glorious day and we look forward to that day...today, we pray that the faith of that certain future will bring you hope...the hope that Christ died to give to His own.

Love you so much and thinking of you,
Brandon & Annie

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A special song

The song on my playlist has become very special to me. See my sister's blog. I am continually amazed at how the Lord continues to meet us and encourage our hearts...especially through this Christmas season.

As I sit here listening to the song, and hear the children's voices singing, I imagine Alivia singing with the angels to her Savior and I think..."Sing, little girl, sing with all your heart to your Savior. I can't wait to join you one day."

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Christmas

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The day after that, Christmas. It's hard for me to believe. My thoughts have been in all different directions as I have contemplated Christmas this year. The Christmas season has been extremely different and difficult for us this year...it's been much more simpler and I think I have done about 10% of the things I usually do to celebrate. There was no Christmas chain this year, no marathon of baking tons of goodies, we didn't listen to a multitude of Christmas albums like we usually do, didn't take many pictures at all, didn't go look at lights, and on I could go.

What I did do, was only done with the help of dear friends beside me. Obviously any previous plans I had made for this month were gone, yet, as I look back all the essentials and most important things did get done...and that is all of grace. My sister was with me the day I pulled out some decorations, Michelle sat with me and wrapped about 75% of my gifts, the Ploons went with us to get a tree, my mom helped and put up most of our ornaments, and she helped me with my Christmas cards. Eva came over one night to help me bake mini loaves of cranberry bread (we wanted to give something to our neighbors to thank them). Mckenna helped me tie them up with ribbon to give out. Last night my sister helped deliver some gifts to friends. In the past, December has been much more full of activity...and even some things that are important I just didn't do this year - we didn't make it to the Christmas service at church tonight, I didn't read as many Christmas books to my girls or do as many activities with them.

However, I feel like I have grasped more about my Savior and the meaning of Him becoming man than ever before. And I think my girls have a better understanding of Jesus and heaven than ever before. The other day I was thinking about all my Savior suffered while here on earth. He suffered more than any human ever will, and therefore is able to completely relate to and help all who suffer...simply because He knows. This was a comforting thought as I have felt particularly lonely at times and thinking that there is no one around me who really knows the depths of what is going on in my heart...They can leave and go back to their lives, laugh, and enjoy normalcy, but my life stays the same...there will never be "normal" again. It's painful. Yet, there IS someone who knows, who experienced the depth of grief that I am (and more) and that person is also able to help me, has promised to and is committed to. Why can He do this? Because He was willing to become man, to be born a baby, suffer, and later die for me. So, in 2 days I am celebrating Jesus' birth. Oh, there is much to rejoice in...in the midst of intense sorrow, I will rejoice...I will! All the help, grace, and mercy I am experiencing is because He became man. I will rejoice!


Verses & Quote...

2 Cor. 2:5 - For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
Footnote - Or For as the sufferings of Christ abound for us, so also our comfort abounds through Christ

Hebrews 2:18 - For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

"Many in this world live with broken hearts. A broken limb of any kind is bad, bruised and wounded flesh is hard to bear. But when your heart is crushed or broken, or when your spirit trembles, you are depressed and utterly wretched....Those who are taught by God will help the brokenhearted, but human sympathy is soon worn out because of its inability to help. You can set a limb and the bone will grow, but what can you do with a broken or crushed heart?....Happy is it for them that 'the LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.' (Ps 34:18)." Spurgeon

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Very present help

A friend send me the following quote today. It's timing could not have been more perfect. It spoke truth to my struggles lately.

As as I see life moving on all around me, my heart feels especially lonely. The inevitable has started to set in...the sympathy cards have stopped, emails trickle in less frequently, and we see others not as often. My little baby girl seems farther away from me than ever...and I seem to forget things about her that I don't want to. I have found myself asking, "what was it like to hold her?," "what did she look like?," "what did her cry sound like?" I miss having my day consumed with nothing but my girlies and taking care of them. Quiet moments are reminders of what I used to be doing.

BUT, then I get an email from Alycia, a dear friend, who is gifted in listening to the Spirit. This quote reminded me of where my true help comes from. I can't hope in or look to things in this world...no, my true help is much greater and much more knowledgeable about me and much stronger...it so ministered hope to me:

Immediately Present

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
A help that is not present when we need it is of small value. The anchor which is left at home is of no use to the seaman in the hour of storm; the money which he used to have is of no worth to the debtor when a writ is out against him. Very few earthly helps could be called "very present": they are usually far in the seeking, far in the using, and farther still when once used. But as for the Lord our God, He is present when we seek Him, present when we need Him, and present when we have already enjoyed His aid.

He is more than "present," He is very present. More present than the nearest friend can be, for He is in us in our trouble; more present than we are to ourselves, for sometimes we lack presence of mind. He is always present, effectually present, sympathetically present, altogether present. He is present now if this is a gloomy season. Let us rest ourselves upon Him. He is our refuge, let us hide in Him; He is our strength, let us array ourselves with Him; He is our help, let us lean upon Him; He is our very present help, let us repose in Him now. We need not have a moment's care or an instant's fear. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."

~Spurgeon

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Luther and Caroline Reynolds

I'm not sure how many people who read my blog have met this couple. But I wanted to highlight and introduce them because they are worthy of much honor and thanks. The morning ofter we moved into our home they were on our doorstep to introduce themselves and welcome us. Luther And Caroline are our neighbors and have 2 children, Luke (11) and Grace (9). Since that day they have been nothing short of amazing neighbors. Best of all, they love the Lord! They have served us, cared for us and loved our girlies like they were their own.

Luther is a captain in the Montgomery County police. The Lord knew all this and placed them right next door to us and they have been with us every step of the way in this trial. On the tragic night that Alivia passed, Luther and Caroline where here in an instant. Caroline held me and Luther was by Dave's side helping as the Paramedics arrived. Honestly, that night is like a nightmare for me that I continually want to wake up from, but them being here was a tangible expression of God's love for us. No one, not even our family or dearest friends could have been here with us as fast as they were. After the ambulance left Luther knelt down, with Caroline still holding me, and prayed over us, crying out to God on our behalf. Then, he drove us to the hospital while Caroline stayed here with the girls. Luther stayed with us at the hospital all night long. All the next week, he stopped in countless times at the Lees to see us. Caroline even worked in coming over amidst her busy schedule of caring for her kids. Our other friends quickly fell in love with them and talked non stop about the Reynolds. They are, simply, amazing people!

During those 2 weeks after, Caroline took good care of everyone working on our house, bringing food over and checking in (to make sure that everyone in our home was supposed to be here ;o). On top of that, they took on the responsibility of making the neighbors aware of what happened. They also took donations to have a crew come in 3 times to clear our yard of all the leaves (if you know our yard, you know that is A LOT of leaves).

Since coming home, they have continued to care for us by calling, checking in, having us for dinner, and simply being the best neighbors anyone could ever ask for.

Luther and Caroline, thanks for the way you have served us. We talk of you often and give thanks to God for the blessing you have been and continue to be to our family. Thanks for opening up your lives and inviting us in. We are so grateful. Every Sunday, as I have sat to write a post thanking friends, I am left speechless and at a loss for words. Today is no different. You both have ministered to us and have been a means of grace in a way that has made it hard to believe that we have only known you a brief time. It's a joy to know your family and we hope to have many more months and years ahead to do life with you all.

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Rest

I've added some more songs to my playlist. I switched the player I was using as the other one did not have some of the key songs that have been particularly helpful to me. Enjoy!

Today was a mix of emotions for me. I've gone from extreme sadness and crying to anger toward my dear husband, to experiencing peace and joy in my heart. Dave and I got some time out today and I was, once again, inundated with a confusion of emotions with the reminder of Christmas all around me. One minute I want nothing to do with the "Christmas Spirit" and feeling intense grief, to the next moment feeling as if I missed out on Christmas this year and that my girlies did not get to make the memories they should have (more on Christmas in an upcoming post). On top of that is the longing and desire for another baby that I find myself praying for all throughout the day...and the empty feeling in my arms.

But, at the end of this day, one thing is clear in my mind...I am a sinner and I desperately need a Savior. And that, my greatest need, has been met through my Savior, Jesus. As I sit here, in tears, I can't even begin to process all my thoughts and emotions or make sense of almost anything going on in my life right now. But, with my mind in all sorts of directions tonight, I am going to bed reminding myself of the truth of who my Savior is and what He has accomplished for me in my mind. In that I find rest.

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Food...

The food has been truly fantastic! Just wanted to hop in here and say "Thank you!" for the way that you all have served my family with the food preparation. It happened more than once--but especially the first time--I was floored to open our front door and receive a meal from someone I was meeting for the first time...as I received the food from their hand! God's church, our truest and eternal family, is a wondrous thing.

Can you imagine me looking you in the eye as I tell you that you are serving us very significantly through the meal that you prepare and bring? So grateful.

...and it has been so yummy.

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Helpful truths

During this grieving process, I have at times struggled with the question of whether what has happened was the correction of the Lord. I have thought back to months previous, trying to figure out if there was sin in my life or whether I was not pursuing the Lord as I should have. This past year has proved to be the most busy and trying times of my life. We moved twice (once to my moms and then to our current home), had a challenging buying process, I was pregnant and then was trying to get settled before baby came. I remember in my last trimester feeling that my devotions were dry. I was having times with the Lord daily, but felt distracted. So, since Alivia passed, I have wondered if this was the Lord's way of getting my attention back or because I was not pursuing him like I should have been or even if my sin had anything to do with all this. It was a painful question in my mind.

Two nights ago Dave and I were in bed and he was reading to me from his favorite book right now, Children of the Living God. It's a book about our adoption into Christ's family and God as our Father. I have yet to read it, but look forward to doing so. Honestly, I was tired and I was not taking in as much as I would have liked, despite how hard I was trying to concentrate. However, Dave said something to me that so served me soul. He said, "God, as our Father, would not correct us for something if we didn't know why He was correcting us." I immediately thought to my own life, and how I would never discipline my girls if they were not clear on why. And, if that is the case with me, being a sinner, how much more is that truth relevant of God. He is merciful. I was able to rest that night, knowing that if ever a trial was God's correction in my life, I would know why...there would not be painful questions in my mind.

Dave also reminded me of Job and how Scripture talks about him as a man who "was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1). Yet, he faced severe trials.

Joe Lee reminded me a few weeks ago that thinking we can control events like this, makes us out to be more powerful and bigger than God. No, God is the one in control and He is the one ordering all events in our lives for our good, despite how painful and hard they may be.

These truths have helped put those questions to rest and have helped bring peace to my soul.

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Provision

I am learning, in a whole new way, about God's provision for all of our needs. And that I don't need to strive, be anxious, or think ahead to obtain His provision...it's promised and it is available to me. I started to think about this today, after Dave had a friend show up for lunch. After he came, I mentioned to Dave that I would get them some lunch. But I was not sure what I was going to give them. All I knew I had was peanut butter and jelly. I opened up the fridge and my mind was racing with what I could quickly come up with. There on the bottom shelf was a long cold-cut sub that was left over from the wood splitting event we had here on Saturday. Perfect! A few cut up apples and there I had lunch for both of them. As I sat down to eat with my sister, I started to think about how God has provided like this in countless ways. I am usually a big planner and like to think ahead and have everything worked out in my mind before it actually happens. I think I had come to rely on this for provision. I am all for planning, etc. and think it is a huge means of grace, but it's not for me to rely on.

These days, I am not thinking beyond my next 5 minutes, and yet when a need arises I am seeing God's provision. Some examples:

*We have had friends come over for dinner, even when I was not sure what kind of meal was coming or how much...it turns out the meal brought was enough for everyone here.
*I needed to do a little more Christmas shopping, but hadn't even thought through when to go or what to get...a friend shows up to take me out.
*Dave had to go away on a business trip...the Averills were free and came over to stay the night here with me.
*The holiday season has proven to be very difficult for me...my mom offers to use her last bit of vacation time to spend some time with me and help with the girls.
*I have been functioning at about 10% lately and have needed so much help with the girls and the basics of life...Dave has stepped up and seems is doing about 200% of what he usually does and with much less sleep.

On and on I could share of my numerous needs and how God's provision has met me. Often I am not even aware of the need until God's provision has already met it. This is the kind of God I serve and He is mighty and merciful. This provides hope and peace for the future. I can be tempted to think ahead and wonder what I will do about this or that. This can lead me to strive or think about what I need to do. However, I am coming to realize that the Lord already knows those needs and already has provision waiting for when the time of need arrives. I have always "known" these truths, but I think I am coming to believe them in a more real way. My fears and anxieties can be put to rest, provision is at hand.

Matthew 6:8 "...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Philippians 4:19 "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Isaiah 25:4 "For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat..."

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More baby steps

They actually have felt like giant steps, but I am experiencing grace nonetheless. Over the last few days I have been thinking about the past 6 weeks a lot...and at times wondering how I ever got through the initial days. It magnifies grace in my eyes because it has been pure grace and strength from above. I am weak...very weak.

I continue to be very forgetful, have moments of intense crying and often lack motivation to do just about anything. However, we are making progress by taking more steps, and seeing us being carried by our Savior.

*This past weekend we kept our tradition in going to cut down a Christmas tree. I really did not want to go, but knew I needed to. Again, grace carried me. We got a small little one this year, so that decorating would be simple.
*On Saturday, with the help of my sister, I was able to pull out a few decorations. I cut some of the wonderful boxwood and holly we have in our yard and used that to add simple Christmas color to a few rooms.
*Dave went on his first business trip around 4am yesterday morning. It is the first time we have been apart for 2 days and, more challenging, for a night. Selah was up a good part of Sunday night with a very severe ear infection (her 3rd in 6 weeks). Waking up in the middle of the night is hard for me as it is a painful reminder that I no longer have my baby girl to wake up for. However, the Lord helped me. Yesterday, Selah had periods of intense screaming and was inconsolable. However, I was very aware of grace in that I seemed numb to all going on around me and my circumstances...I only cried once yesterday. I woke up this morning and realized the Lord had carried me through a whole day and night without Dave and caring for a sick little girl - a huge baby step for me.

I have been reading a particular page in Beside Still Waters for a number of days now...I can't seem to get beyond it. It has helped me through the past week, facing a number of difficult "baby steps." I have spent time crying over it as well as praying through it.

Call Upon Me - Psalm 50:15

Spurgeon writes, "Oh Lord, You see how great my trouble is! It is heavy. I cannot carry it, and I cannot get rid of it. It follows me to bed, and it will not let me sleep. When I rise, it is still with me. I cannot shake it off. My trouble is unusual. Few are as afflicted as I am. Please give me extraordinary help, for my trouble is crushing. If you do not help, I will soon be broken! This is good reasoning and good pleading.

Turn your adversity to advantage. Go to the Lord this moment and say, 'Lord, do you not hear me? You have commanded me to pray. I, though I am evil, would not tell anyone to ask me for something unless I intended to honor their request. I would not urge them to ask for help if I meant to refuse it.'

When God tells you to call on Him, He will deal compassionately with you. You are not urged to pray in the hour of trouble to experience deeper disappointment. God knows that you have trouble enough without the added burden of unanswered prayer. The Lord will not unnecessarily add even a quarter of an ounce to your burden. When He tells you to call on Him, you may call on Him without fear of failure.

So plead the time, please the trouble, plead the command, and then plead with God. Speak reverently, but with belief, 'Lord, it is You Yourself to whom I appeal. You said, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you" (Ps. 50:15). So, Lord, by Your truth, by Your faithfulness, by Your immutability, and by Your love, I, a poor sinner, heartbroken and crushed, call on You in the day of trouble. Help me. Help me soon, or else I die.'

If I were in trouble, I would pray like David, Elijah, or Daniel in the power of this promise, 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.' "

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Joe and Esther Lee

Our forever friends! Joe and Esther have proven themselves the most faithful of friends for the years we have known them, and particularly over the past number of weeks. I still remember the very day I met Esther and have some incredible memories of being her friend. I can honestly say that she has been one of the best and most loyal friends I have ever had.

From the very moment we started the grieving process, Joe and Esther have been by our side. They welcomed us into their home for almost 2 weeks, gave us their room to stay in, cared for us, cooked for us and ministered love toward us the entire time. Not only us, but they hosted all the people who came to see and spend time with us. Almost every night they sat with us, allowing us to process with them, counseling us and offering hope to our hearts...and when they could not be with us, they arranged and made sure someone was.

It would be impossible for me to share all the ways they so effectively and tirelessly cared for us, nor do I think I know. But let me tell you...they put in some serious hours, waking up early in the morning and staying up with us till late at night. To say that they were by our side for 2 whole weeks is no exaggeration...they were literally, "by our side."

It is late, I'm very tired and don't think I am doing an adequate job honoring these friends. Or maybe it's because there are not words to communicate the level of gratefulness we have for them.

Joe and Esther, it seems like a daunting task to effectively honor you. My mind is racing with all the ways you have cared for us and our family...I could write a book. But I hope, in some way, you feel the pleasure of our Lord because I do believe he is well pleased with you. Thank you for the countless...and I mean countless ways you have laid down your lives for us and the gospel. We love you so much!

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Splitting

A number of Dave's friends came over today to help him split wood. We had about 6 or 7 huge trees taken down on our property over the summer and Dave has not had the time to do it all himself. We recently had a wood stove insert put in our fireplace to utilize all this wood we have. But we first need to split it.

7 guys showed up this morning at 8am to serve us. I was, once again, simply amazed by the people who continue to serve us. I spent a good part of my morning looking out the window watching them, trying to process the fact that these guys were giving up half of their Saturday to come out in the freezing cold to labor for us...heroic servants! I significantly felt the care and grace of our Lord through them. Who would have ever thought that God would use the task of splitting wood to remind me that His grace is sufficient for all of our needs.

Thank you Bryan for the idea to do this and for organizing the day. Thank you Travis for helping organize, for arranging the pick up and rental of the splitter and giving of your time, once again, to serve us. Thank you Solomon (and Evan), Sam, Brandon, Mark, Gabe and Jamie for helping today. Thank you Kelly for lugging all the kids over to be with me this morning. I know you have had a very hard couple of weeks, with you and the kids being sick. Yet you have continued to serve me non-stop, constantly offering to do things, today being just an example. Mark and Kel, you continue to be my heros. They were both here with us last night until 11pm and then today again. Mark came (after just getting over being sick) and stayed until 4:30pm to help Dave get almost every log split.

All of you are amazing servants!

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Happy Birthday, Dave!

Apart from my Savior, there is no one I know who is more worthy of my honor and respect, than my husband, Dave. Today we are celebrating his birthday. Amidst all we have been walking through, I think many have probably forgotten. But he is as joyful as ever today.

Over the past number of weeks, I have become freshly aware of how blessed I am to be married to this man. He has comforted me, cried with me, cared for me, and reminded me over and over again of our Savior's goodness, control over our lives, and His working in all things for our benefit.

Our girls have been waking up countless times during the night. Dave has been the one getting up with them, caring for their needs. In the morning he gets up, without complaining, and sets about his tasks. In the midst of caring for his family, he has also been working hard every day, seeking to provide for us and honor our Lord.

I have seen so much grace in his life and wanted to honor him today for the husband, father and friend that I know him to be...

Dave, you are the love of my life and am giving thanks to God for you today. I feel like my words will never be adequate to express my heart. But I pray that the Lord encourages you with the knowledge that He sees, He knows and He will richly bless you for your sacrifices and love for your wife and girlies. I love you so much!

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I desperately need the gospel

Today has been a challenging day. I have been reminded, through a number of circumstances, just how slow I am at almost anything I do. My mind is slow, my body is slow, my responses are slow. It is very humbling for me. I am used to thriving on a schedule and a to-do list. But as of late, even life's most basic tasks I can easily forget to do or can take me all day to accomplish. Simple decisions seem like monumental tasks for me. Hence, I am slow to return phone calls, answer emails or respond when someone asks me a question....my mind doesn't seem to process and think the way it used to...and I can be left tempted to frustration. I don't know what to do tonight or what I want to do this weekend. I can't seem to think through what I should give my family for dinner tonight (even if there are leftovers in the fridge from the wonderful meals we have received). From what I hear, this is normal for me right now and part of the grieving process.

Simply put, I am realizing like never before, that there really is only grace for me for the next 5 minutes of my life and I desperately need the gospel. I am going to forget, make mistakes and do things I probably should not and forget to do things I should. I need a Savior and He is my righteousness. That reminder brings hope to my weak soul.

I am so incredibly grateful for the continued emails and phone calls we receive. If the Lord continues to place those things on your heart to do, please don't stop. They so serve me. But if I am slow to respond, or if you don't hear from me at all, know that you are serving me beyond your understanding, even if I can't tell you personally. I am aware that I will never be able to communicate how grateful I am to the hundreds who have rallied around us in this season...but I am going to spend my life trying!

Philippians 3:7-10 "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."

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Rest

The Lord met me in numerous ways today. There was grace from above and I experienced a rest in my soul from many of my fears. I felt the prayers of others.

A few people sent me some quotes and scriptures that helped direct my focus on the Lord and away from the uncertainties all around me.

Some of the ways the Lord has proved faithful and sufficient over the last 24 hours:

*Joe and Esther Lee - they sat down with us for over 2 hours last night, talked, answered questions and drew us out. I went with my stomach in knots and my head spinning. I left in a place of peace and slept through the night.
*I woke up with a few emails in my inbox that were full of truth and helped me to rest in the Lord today.
*My mom - she has been staying overnight at our house. She has been taking the girls in the morning so Dave and I can get some extra sleep. On top of that, she has only been working 1/2 days lately so she can be with me in the mornings. Today she helped me clean a bit...
*Michelle DeCarlo came over and spent the entire day with me. She has come one day a week, bringing food to make lunch for everyone and just being here with me to serve in anyway she can. Today she helped me go through all my Christmas presents and begin wrapping them. That was a huge step for me.
*With the help of many others, I was able to throw a surprise birthday party for Dave tonight. Yesterday I wasn't sure how I was going to get things together for it...and I didn't even have much to do. But there was grace in abundance and Dave was surprised! It was so good to see him laugh and have fun with friends.

From Beside Still Waters:

Do Not Fear - Zephaniah 3:16

"What? Not even a little?"
"No, do not fear."
"Surely I may show some measure of fear?"
"No, do not fear."

Tie this knot tight around the throat of unbelief: "Do not fear." "Do not
fear" today. "Do not fear" tomorrow. "Do not fear" any day of your life.
When fear comes, drive it away and give it no space.

When the weather is rough, passengers on a ship can be comforted by the
captain's calm behavior. One simple-minded soul said, "I am sure there is
no cause to fear, for I heard the captain whistling." Surely if the captain
is at ease, the passengers can be at peace. If the Lord Jesus is at the
helm singing, do not fear. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him"
(Ps.37:7). "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, our God will come with
vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you"
(Is.35:4).

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Fear

Fear has always been a struggle for me, but as of late, the temptation has only increased. It's a daily battle for me. Today, especially, my mind has been going in all different directions, faced every moment with fears for today and fears of the future.

I look around and find my heart desperate for a break or way of escape from the hurt, fear, and anxiety I feel. Yet, I find nothing. Sleep is hard, eating has become a chore and my thoughts and memories seem to be an enemy. Every bit of life is a battle for joy right now.

Yet, even in the midst of all this confusion and pain I know there is a way of escape for my desperate soul. Although I may not "feel" it, the Lord and His Word are my shelter from the storm.

The following verse came to mind today and has served me:

Psalm 94:19
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

A friend sent me some scriptures the other day on fear. These also have helped me turn my gaze from all going around me to the One who knows my weak heart and has promised to help.

Psalm 34: 4
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by
the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Isaiah 12:2-4
Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 26:3
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you
because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 35: 4
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
'Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God
will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.'

Isaiah 43: 1
But now says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name,
you are mine."


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Ploon Blog

Most people who read my blog probably also read my sister's, Kelly Plunnecke. But in case not, I wanted to highlight it. She has written some excellent posts over the past few weeks, that have really ministered to me. They express her wrestle with grief and her fight for joy amidst hard circumstances. If you have not read it, I encourage you to do so.
I have a link on the right, but you can also click here.

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Travis and Jonalee Earles

Today it has been 5 weeks since we lost our little one...the same amount of time that I had her and held her in my arms. It's a hard thought for me to process; the pain seems to increase with each passing day. And it's a day like today, when I have been more aware of postpartum hair loss kicking in and looking in the mirror and feeling like I have been aged by about 20 years through this, that I am reminded I need to give thanks.

Thankfulness is good for my soul. It doesn't minimize the pain or hurt in my heart, but I think in some way, it enables me to better glorify God. I don't need to think long or look far to realize HOW MUCH the Lord has done for us and used the lives of others to bless, serve and care for us.

Even now, amidst so many thoughts racing in my head, I look around my home and think of Travis and Jonalee Earles. I am aware that no one except our Lord knows how many hours they have served us. Dave and I go way back with Travis and Jonalee. However, over the past few years we have not really been in the same circle of friends. Once all this happened, they stepped in and gave of themselves in countless ways.

Jonalee was one of the ladies who headed up the work done on our house - she brainstormed, shopped, sewed, and used her gifts to put in hours of service for us. I don't even know all she did, but as the days go on I am learning more and more and am simply amazed. Travis was right beside her moving furniture, painting, putting up curtain rods, lights and, likewise, investing so much time.

Since we came home, they both have been over to minister, care for us and talk with us. The day we found out that Dave's grandfather had passed, Travis was here that very night to spent time with Dave. Jonalee has continued to serve by taking pictures for us, and helping me get them developed.

Trav and Jonalee - what friends you are! We are left more amazed at the gospel and of God's care because of you both. You have been a picture of the church in action. Thanks for demonstrating to a watching world and to us, your love for the Savior and your passion to give your lives away to see Him glorified. We are so grateful!

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Pink crocs

I have always loved pink, but now I think I can say it's my favorite color. Whenever I see it, I remember my little girl. I dressed Alivia in it almost every day. A few weeks ago, I was at the mall and saw a pair of winter PINK crocs. They had this cozy white lining inside and were so comfortable. Right away I knew I wanted to get them in honor and remembrance of Alivia. My sister and Esther, who were with me, heard me say that and also got a pair. I was incredibly blessed by that. The best part is that the store also had the same matching crocs in kid sizes. So, Mckenna, Selah and I have matching pink crocs. I love it!

I wanted to get some pictures of us girlies in our matching crocs. Jonalee came last Saturday to serve us. Thanks, friend!





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Signs of life

Julie Purswell told me something a long time ago. Over the past few weeks I have been reminded of her words to me. And I have come to cherish the meaning of them more than ever before. She said to me, "messes are signs of life." How true that is. When the house is a mess, toys are everywhere, the floors are dirty and old, stale sandwiches are still lining the table hours after lunchtime, that truth is one, that if embraced, will bring perspective back to anyone's day.

I have come to appreciate messes, screams and all signs of life like never before. In fact, a number of days ago I noticed hand prints on my kitchen sliding glass door. In the past, it would have been common for me to grab for the cleaner and a rag to clean it off. However, it's now been over a week and every time I see them, I smile and am reminded of my little Selah Grace. I haven't yet been able to clean the window. Those signs of life are precious to me.

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Entrusted, but not in control

Yesterday marked a full month since our little girl went to be with Jesus. It was a difficult day. But it was also my big girl's birthday, which was a blessing. It was a day of mixed emotion, to say the least.

Nights are particularly hard for me and last night especially. Most people we could think of were busy and, at one point, I told Dave I needed to leave and just go for a drive. So, that's what we did. My mom and sister were here to stay with the girls and we headed up 124. Dave continued to text and make calls to see if anyone was free. Once again God provided. The Ellis' and Apolenis' simultaneously got back to Dave saying to come over. They just happen to live a few doors down from each other. We ended up at the Apolenis home. We later found out that they had family staying with them for 10 days and everyone had just left. Christine was obviously exhausted and feeling sick (she is in her first trimester of pregnancy), but you would have never known! We were welcomed with open arms. Sam Ellis walked down about 30 minutes later with fresh pumpkin bread that Priscila had just made. They all talked with us, allowed us to share, laughed with us and prayed for us.

At one point in the evening Joe said something that really ministered to my heart. We were talking about the blessing of children and he said, "we are entrusted, but we are not in control." I keep thinking about what he said and have pondered on the truth of that statement. For me, it's a sobering, yet releasing thought...that God would entrust us with the lives of children - to parent, train and love. It is an incredible privilege. It is also a huge responsibility that one day we will give account for. That should motivate me to put all my heart and strength to the task of mothering my girls. However, ultimately the Lord is completely in control of our children's lives and their destinies. He holds their precious souls in His hands and He can be trusted. So, what does that mean for me? I am released from the need to worry, fear or feel that something I do or don't do can somehow control the future. My God is great...greater than my thoughts, my plans, my endeavors, my hopes, my dreams, even my best efforts. And this God, He is worthy of my trust in Him.

May He strengthen my heart to allow me to trust Him in a way that honors and glorifies His great gospel. He is in control...and He is good.

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Happy Birthday, Mckenna!

Mckenna turns 5 years old today! It's so hard for me to believe. But this year I am more grateful than ever for the gift of life that she is to us. She has brought so much joy to her mamma and I am giving thanks to God for her. She continues to make me laugh and warm my heart with her cute little sayings and her zeal for life.

Mckenna, thanks for blessing your mamma with 5 wonderful years of hugs, cuddles, kisses and laughes. Thanks for being a means of showing me greater dependence on the Lord and His Word. I love you so. Happy Birthday!

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Deep waters

We just got word a few hours ago that Dave's grandfather, who he was very close to, died last night. I feel my desperate need for sustaining grace and strength as we continue to walk through these deep waters.

The thought of walking through another funeral right now, seems overwhelming to me. But I continue to remind myself that there is grace for just today. As soon as I found out, the song, How Firm a Foundation popped right into my mind, particularly the 3rd verse. I know it was the Lord impressing it on my heart that He is near, He is able, and He is good.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake."

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Brandon and Annie Averill

If ever I have felt more inadequate to say thanks to people it has been the past few weeks. We have been so effectively cared for and served. I hope to highlight some of those people in the coming days and point out their sacrifices for us and evident love for the Savior.

Brandon and Annie

They are a couple in our care group who has demonstrated amazing care for us. About 2 weeks ago, when we came home, they started offering to come over and spend some evenings here with us. I think at one point they came 3 nights in a row, eating dinner with us, helping with the girls and cooking for us. Seeing that it helps us to have people here at night, they offered to come and stay a few nights...those few nights turned into a whole week. So, for the past week, they have stayed here and made our home their home. They have bought us food, cooked or us, gotten up early with the girls, cared for our souls, laughed with us, cried with us, and I could go on and on.

I have been drinking tea tons these days and last week I ruined my tea kettle. Annie happened to notice and came home the next day with a brand new one. They have come through the door in the evenings with bags of groceries. They spent Thanksgiving with us and were willing to give up all their plans to serve us. These are just a few of the ways they have blessed us. Today they left and it was very bittersweet. I know we will be going through Averill withdrawal for a number of days.

Brandon and Annie - I know my thanks will always seem inadequate to communicate my heart. But you both have gone above and beyond expectation. All I can think to say is that your care for us has expressed, in a tangible way, the love of the Savior and the reality of His promises, that He will provide for all of our needs. Having people here is a huge means of grace; the Lord knew and He provided. So grateful for you both!

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An Anchor

I didn't post yesterday...it was a very hard day and grief seemed to sweep over me all too often. Life seemed very surreal. On a day when it seemed the whole world around me was carefree and for everyone celebration came so easy, it was a fight of faith to just hold my head up. But, I know that is ok....it's normal despite how incredibly hard it is. Yet, in the midst of it all, I was thankful - thankful for my Savior, thankful for grace and mercy, thankful for friends and family.

I read the following quote the other day, and took time to ponder this anchor that I have. The quote adequately describes my grief. I thought of a ship with it's anchor in the sea. Although the wind might seek to blow the ship and move it from it's place, the anchor holds it still. How grateful I am that I have an anchor for my soul...it's the hope my Savior has provided. He is holding me still amidst the wind of this trial that would seek to run me off course.

From Grief to Glory, pg. 56:

"Real grief is not easily comforted. It comes like ocean waves rushing up the sand, subsiding back, only to roll in again. These waves vary in size, frequency, and intensity. Some are small, lapping up around the feet. Others are stronger; they foam the water around you and cause you to stagger. Then there are the overwhelming waves with an undertow that can turn your world upside down and drag you out into the deep water. In times such as those, the mourner desperately needs an anchor. And, indeed, God has promised His people a blessing if they patiently endure. He has guaranteed the promise so that we might lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope is the anchor of the soul, and it is sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19)."

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We'll always remember

I am so grateful for pictures. For those who do not know, a good number of these pictures were taken one or two days before Alivia met Jesus. This is the slide show from the memorial service. I must thank Megan Russell, who did an amazing job editing all my pictures and Kristen Snyder who put together this slide show. Just a note, pause the playlist on the right of my blog before pressing play on the slide show.

These pictures are a gift from the Lord that will help me more fully remember my little one. And, although I often have a very hard time looking at them, I treasure them with all my heart.

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Music

I have grown to a greater appreciation for music these days. In fact, I play songs on my ipod (Dave rigged up his old speakers to my ipod) almost all day long. Jon Smith put about 40 songs on my ipod for me...ones that he thought would minister and serve me...and they so have. I wanted to be able to share some of the ones that have been my favorites as of late. These songs keep me focused on the Cross, provide necessary perspective, and have even helped me grieve well.

For those who know me well, know that I am no techy. I often have a hard time figuring out the simplest thing on my computer. Anyway, Mark Plunnecke (the best brother-in-law in the world) served me by putting some of these particular songs on my blog. Thanks, Mark and Kel. You both continue to amaze me by your care.

Pleases listen to the words and join me in praising our Lord and being amazed at the saving work of our Savior.

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Baby steps

From the beginning, Jenni has encouraged me to focus on taking simple baby steps. What that means is focusing and relying on grace for just the next minute or 5 minutes...and only doing small things. There are times I am not sure I can even get out of a chair to go get one of the girls a drink, change Selah's diaper, or even think about making a decision. BUT, in those times I need to remind myself, "Baby steps, Heather, baby steps...there is grace to get this drink or change that diaper." And I find that as I do, grace meets me, strengthens my weak body and soul and enables me to take that baby step. It is more challenging and harder than I could ever have imagined...yet I know and am experiencing grace to be greater.

So, some of the baby steps I can give thanks to God for include:
*making breakfast for my family
*doing dishes
*cleaning my bathroom
*going to church
*tucking my girls into bed
*laughing with friends

Some even harder ones:
*being able to hold some of Alivia's clothes and weeping
*when I pass by a stroller, continuing to walk, when I want to fall
*answering Mckenna or Selah when they ask, "where is the baby, momma?"

Doubt and fear are ever near, but I know there is grace for these baby steps and I trust grace will continue to meet me. I am coming to know what it really means to live by grace alone and that I can take no credit for anything I do.

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"Jesus help...and be glorified."

From the book, Grief to Glory:

"Johann Sebastian Bach was master musician who left us a wealth of worshop music of the highest order and beauty. After composing a piece of music, he often closed his manuscript with the initials, 'S.D.G.' (Soli Deo Gloria - 'To God Alone Be Glory'). Many of his works also began with the abbreviation 'J.J.' (Jesu Juva or 'Jesus, help me').

It is not well known today that Bach was a bereaved parent. In fact, he was married twice (his first wife predeceased him), and of the twenty children born of his two marriages, he saw thirteen of them carried to the grave. Bach did his best to instill courage into his second wife's suffering heart by giving her a music book. Three times he wrote into the book variations of a simple tune he composed for her based on the hymn 'Fred Not, my soul; on God rely.'

Despite the grief that surely must have characterized much of his life, Bach was able to raise his thoughts to the grandeur and majesty of Christ, and from his pen flowed hymns of praise like the familiar, 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' and 'My heart Ever Faithful,' the latter of which has the following verse:

My heart ever faithful, sing praises, be joyful;
Sing praises, be joyful, they Jesus is near.
Away with complaining, away with complaining,
Faith ever maintaining, my Jesus is near.

Oh, to have such simple, childlike trust in God as Father. Every day we who have lost children should remember the example of Bach and pray, 'Jesus, help me,' as we rise from bed and, 'Glory to God alone,' when the day is done."

My prayer is that I, by grace alone, would do the same.

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When I don't know what to do

Nicole sent me this the other day. I am daily reminded, through the care of others in the means of email, of the love of my Savior. Thanks, Nicole!

"I read this verse the other day and I don't know if it will serve you or not but I thought I would send it in case. It's when King Jehoshaphat was faced with a large army coming his way and he prayed to the Lord: "We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. (2 Chronicles 20:12) I can't imagine what you are going through right now but if there are moments where you feel powerless and do not know what to do, I thought this verse might be a helpful prayer to cry out to God. Of course, God answered Jehoshaphat's prayer and He will surely answer yours. "When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him." (Psalm 91:15)

Also, I sent this to you via other means so if you've received this from me already I apologize. It's simply a quote from Beside Still Waters. I pray it reminds you of the faithfulness of God.

'Some of you are enduring deep affliction. In your extraordinary trial, remember the depth of divine faithfulness. You may be unable to comprehend why, but I urge you to believe in the firmness and stability of divine affection. You will have comfort in proportion to your trials...If you have deep afflictions you will obtain deeper proof of God's faithfulness....God will not fail. God will not take away His hand until He has finished His purpose concerning us. Great trials bring great promises...There is love, immortal and unchanging love, in heaven toward you, which will never grow cold. You will be helped. God would sooner cease to be than cease to be faithful. Be of good courage, for today He will strengthen your heart.' pg. 19"

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What ministers and serves me

Many have asked what types of things serve me in this season. I am so blessed that others would ask that. We have been learning that the grieving process is different for everyone and what has/does serve others might not serve me(us) and visa versa. So, I thought I would mention a few things for those who have asked or were thinking about asking:

1. Questions. Here are some random questions I have found helpful:
"How was your day?"
"What has the Lord been showing you through this?"
"How can I be praying for you?"
"How are your girls doing?"
"Is there anything you need at the store?"
"I'm going _________. Would you like to come along?"
"We are free tonight, tomorrow evening, next week, etc. Would you and Dave like some
company?" (Please know that if we don't take you up on it, it isn't an indication of anything.
We love you dearly.)

Often making your question too specific can be unhelpful. This is not an exhaustive list, so please don't feel like these are the only questions you can ask.

2. Listening.
Don't feel the need to say much. Just listening to me talk is ever so helpful. Often it will cause my mind to go to all the Lord is doing in this season, the good I am seeing, and that so serves me. It brings perspective and reminds me that my little girl's life was not in vain, nor is this painful trial...but the Lord is at work. My soul ends up greatly encouraged...and I am able to shed tears and emotion that is helpful to get out. My thoughts go to times we have had with Joe and Esther or other couples who have been walking through this with us. At times there were moments of comfortable silence. I appreciated how they were comfortable with it and their posture was just a listening one...listening to the Lord, listening to us. I guess you have to be comfortable to listen. We are comfortable with you not knowing what to say. Often Dave doesn't know what to say. Job's friends didn't say a word for 7 days and nights. Just having friends with us is enough. So, it's OK to say something, but it's also true that sometimes "silence is golden."

3. Emailing.
Sending a note along to say you are praying is one of the things that blesses me the most. I am aware more than ever how much I need the prayers of others. Also, quotes from men such as Spurgeon, etc. and Scriptures really bless me. Please be sensitive to content as things that mention that this is just a season, or to wait because it will take time/time heals, or that these events have been perfectly planned can be hard to hear. Although they can contain good truths (and we do love the truths of God), we remember that Jesus knew all the truth the Bible now contains and yet he wept. Verses and passages that contain God's words of comfort, particularly him affirming his love to his people, are very helpful.

4. Understanding.
I have been trying to keep up on my email. And I have been so blessed (beyond what I can communicate) by all the notes, emails and offers to help that I am getting. If it is in your heart, PLEASE keep them coming. They so minister to me. But if I don't get back to you, please know I am ever so grateful.

When we have been around others, light conversation is sometimes helpful. However, often I find that asking the questions I that noted first, listening....and then transitioning later can be most helpful. We are very aware of what has happened and the incredible impact it has on our life. This type of transition in conversation/fellowship blesses us because it allows us to acknowledge the importance of Alivia and provides a helpful bridge for us to lighter talk and laughter. Laughter has been a blessing to us in this season. I am so grateful to people like Jon Smith who have made me laugh and reminded me what a gift laughter is.

However, if you notice me getting quiet, teary-eyed, feel free to just ask those same questions again...I'll probably share, cry some more...and that is often good for me.

Also, it's been amazing to me that sometimes a random topic of conversation can cause me to struggle. Don't allow this to make you feel awkward around us, this does not mean you have offended me. Just know that I might lean over to Dave to whisper or even say out loud, "let's not talk about _____." Dave and others have been great about transitioning quickly to something else. I'm grateful.

5. Encouraging.
When/where you see evidences of grace, let us know! We have found such comfort in this. I feel so desperately weak. There are days that I think, "I can't do this....I can't go on. The pain is too great and I can't live my life like this." So, when others encourage us by how they see God's strength at work in us and how it is a sign that He is real and over all things, our faith is built. We are reminded that there is indeed grace to carry on.

There is probably more, but these are some things that come to mind. Thanks to everyone for your care and prayers on our behalf. We're so grateful.

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Sacrifice of praise

I am learning, in a whole new way, what Scripture means when it says to, "offer up a sacrifice of praise to God..." Hebrews 13:15. In the midst of all this inexpressible pain, I know I must still praise my Savior and I am seeking to do so with all the strength that He provides because I have none on my own.

I have been listening to and singing he following song, by Mercy Me, every time I am in the car. I listened to it for the first time since all this happened on Sunday, when Dave and I ran an errand together. Tears just flowed down my face as I sang and offered it as a sacrifice of praise to God. So now, when I am in the car, I play it over and over and over again. The other day I literally was just waiting for Mckenna to start complaining that she was hearing repeated so much. But, instead, when the next song came, she asked if she could hear it again. She said, "I want to hear that song again, mamma, cause I want to learn about Jesus." Then she proceeded to say, "I want to hear that song all day long cause I want to learn more about Jesus." I don't know what is going on in her mind and what she understands of all these circumstances, but I do know the Lord is at work...and I was encouraged.

Today, we again were playing it in the car and she said, "this is my favorite song cause I want to praise Jesus...that pleases God, right mom?" I said, "you are right, Mckenna, it pleases Him so much." Then I heard her little voice start to sing along.

"Lord, may you indeed be pleased by our sacrifices of praise to you. And on days like today, when I feel like my heart is going to fall out and when I miss my little baby so much it hurts, may our praise be a means of comfort and help to our souls...and most of all, may you be glorified."

Bring the Rain, by Mercy Me

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You


Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am Yours regardless of
The dark clouds that may loom above
Because You are much greater than my pain
You who made a way for me
By suffering Your destiny
So tell me what's a little rain
So I pray

Holy, holy, holy
Is the Lord God Almighty

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The Lord indeed hears.

My sister and Megan Russell both sent me emails that, in a sense, hit the nail on the head with my struggles the past 2 days. They were examples to me that the Lord, indeed, does hear my cries.

From Kelly:

Been meditating on Ps 18 4-6 and wanted to send it your way:

"The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears."


As I read this and think about it and pray through it for you...one thing keeps coming to mind. Though you may not feel it or be aware...God is hearing your cries, they do reach Him."


From Megan:

I was reading in Isaiah 30 this morning in my quiet time, and the Lord laid you on my heart. Thought these verses might be an encouragement to you:

"He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry.
As soon as He hears it, He answers you.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
Yet your Teacher will not hide Himself anymore,
But your eyes shall see your Teacher.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
‘This is the way, walk in it...’

...the Lord binds up the brokenness of His people,
And heals the wounds inflicted by His blow..."

Isaiah 15.19-21,26


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Glory baby

Jon Smith shared something with us two weeks ago that served them when they lost their baby and has ministered to me. He said our goal in having children is to raise them for heaven. We have no guarantees that they will grow up to love and serve the Savior, but that is what we aim and strive for. So, to know that I bore my baby and that she is now in heaven is assurance that we accomplished our mission as parents for her. We and the Smiths have glory babies and we will see them one day. It does not take the pain and ache away, but it does help to impart hope to my hurting heart.

Glory Baby, by Watermark

Glory baby you slipped away as fast as we could say baby…baby..
You were growing, what happened dear?
You disappeared on us baby…baby..
Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe until we’re home with you…
Until we’re home with you…

Miss you everyday
Miss you in every way
But we know there’s a
day when we will hold you
We will hold you
You’ll kiss our tears away
When we’re home to stay
Can’t wait for the day when we will see you
We will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you
‘till mom and dad can hold you…
You’ll just have heaven before we do
You’ll just have heaven before we do

Sweet little babies, it’s hard to
understand it ‘cause we’re hurting
We are hurting
But there is healing
And we know we’re stronger people through the growing
And in knowing-
That all things work together for our good
And God works His purposes just like He said He would…
Just like He said He would…

BRIDGE:
I can’t imagine heaven’s lullabies
and what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing, heaven is your home
And it’s all you’ll ever know…all you’ll ever know…

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Grace

Last night was hard...today has been harder, one of the hardest days yet. I often think that I just can't do this because the pain is so great. I read a quote that a friend sent and found comfort in it's words:

"What a mercy that you can never sink lower than grace! When you come to
your lowest point, God interposes. The tide turns when you reach the full
ebb. The darkest part of night is farthest from the rising of sun.
Believer, be of good courage." Spurgeon

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Psalm 57

This Psalm has been ministering to my heart for days now...

Psalm 57:1-3, 7-11

"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!...

My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!"

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Re-post

An earlier post that I made was very hard to read. Here it is again:

Perspective in Trials

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A well of living water that is close to me

A dear friend sent me this quote...

From Beside Still Waters

from p. 80
"[Jesus] did not merely carry our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24); He also bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (Is. 53:4). Jesus was not merely a substitute, which is the greatest of all consolations, but He is also affected by my trial. Jesus suffers with you and in you; you are a member of His body, and He supports you. Look into His face by faith and be assured that He is not hard or without pity. Look into His face when you are distressed by the wrongs of others and believe that He knows it, notices it, and has sympathy. Jesus feels what we feel. He sympathizes with us...Beloved, if you have forgotten your Lord (and it would not be unusual if you have), think of Him again. You will find the dear Savior is a well of living water that is close to you."

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Falling leaves

I woke up this morning and looked out my bedroom window. The last time we were here in our home, the trees were full of beautiful colored leaves of yellow, crimson and orange. I remember thinking how grateful I was to have such views from my bedroom window and to be able to enjoy the beauty from my home.



However, today, almost 2 weeks later, I looked out and almost all the leaves have fallen from the trees and they look so bare, cold, empty and frail. I thought what a picture that was of what I was feeling. My heart aches beyond words.



Then the Lord brought this thought to mind...the trees will go through a long, cold winter that may seem to never end. BUT, fruit will be born again in the spring. The tress will warm once again and leaves will bud and spring forth. It brought hope to me. I know there is no timetable for this grieving process and I will never get over not having my precious baby with me. However, I am trusting that the Lord will bring forth fruit from this trial - may our hearts draw nearer to the Savior, know more of Him and love Him more. May we learn more about, dream more of, and long deeper for heaven. May we draw closer to each other in our family and to our friends. And may others come to know the saving knowledge of our Savior through this trial. That is the fruit I am praying and hoping for. And as the spring brings new warmth and beautiful leaves, may the fruit of this trial help warm our painful, grieving hearts in the days ahead and be beautiful in our gracious Savior's eyes as well in ours.

Please continue to pray for us...

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Returning Home

Over the past number of days we have been staying with the Lee family, who have so effectively cared for our bodies and souls and have extended the love of the Savior to us so well. We could not be more grateful. But today we are transitioning back to our home. 


If you think of it, please pray for us...for the Lord to strengthen and sustain us for this challenging day ahead. I am aware that the hardest days are probably yet to come. And although that is a difficult thought for me, I am seeking with all my heart to cling to Jesus and trust in His promised provision of grace for me.

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Great Benefits

Thank you, Jenni, for sending this to me today. You are a living testimony that what Spurgeon writes here is true and real. Thanks for encouraging me by your faith and example and for sending this quote to strengthen my soul today.


Beside Still Waters - "When your faith endures many conflicts, and your spirit sinks low, do not condemn yourself.

There is a reason for your season of heaviness. Great soldiers are not made without war. Skillful sailors are not trained on the shore. It appears that if you are to become a great believer, you will be greatly tested. If you are to be a great help to others, you must pass through their trials. If you are to be instructed in the things of the kingdom, you must learn from experience. The uncut diamond has little brilliance, and the unthreshed corn feeds no one, and the untried believer is of little use or beauty. There are GREAT BENEFITS to come from your trials and depression...

The one who is much plowed and often harrowed will thank God if the result is a larger harvest to the praise and glory of God by Jesus Christ. If your face is now covered with sorrow, the time will come when you will bless God for that sorrow. The day will come when you will see great gain from your losses, your crosses, your troubles and your affliction. From your affliction this glory shall spring, and the deeper your sorrow the louder you'll sing."

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This quote ministered to my soul as I read it today. It's from the book, From Grief to Glory. I'm sure I will be quoting from it more in the days ahead. The author, James W. Bruce III is quoting a portion from Pilgrim's Progress. Oh how my heart aches beyond anything I have ever experienced in this life, the tears flow freely. But how grateful that the Lord has provided things like this for me to read...


"At the end of the story, Christian and Hopeful come within view of the gates of heaven. 'I further saw in my dream,' wrote Bunyan, 'that between them and the gate was a river, but there was no bridge to go over; and the river was very deep.' The two pilgrims enter the river, and Christian begins to sink in the deep waters, the billowy waves going over his head. He exclaims, 'The sorrows of death have compassed about me!'

Hopeful answers: 'These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God has forsaken you; but they are sent to test you, so see whether you will recall the goodness, which up to now, you have received from Him and if you will live upon Him in your distresses. Be cheerful, Jesus Christ makes you whole.'

With that, Bunyan saw in his dream Christian crying out in a loud voice, 'O! I see Him again, and He tells me, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you." ' Then Christian and Hopeful both take courage; the enemy becomes as still as a stone, and so they cross over."

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