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.


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


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.


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.



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:

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,

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."


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.


Merry Christmas


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


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."



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


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."



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.



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.



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.


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.



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..."


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.' "


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!



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!


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!


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."



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"



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."


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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


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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