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Olivia Knows……….

July 30th, 2011

 

Olivia knows, so now I can share with you…….

In the midst of teacher trainings, the She Speaks conference, Olivia packing and leaving for a mission trip with her youth group, and trying to get my classroom ready, I’ve also been helping Evan sort through his “life” as we have been packing up his bedroom.  He’s planning to move to California to work and go to school, so Maria is going to live with us for the year……

My heart has been so full of emotions as we’ve placed so much of his life in Rubbermaid containers and then sat them in Nick’s room until we put them in storage. I’ve been vividly reminded that life really is a journey that ends in boxes.  What we collect here truly isn’t forever.  It’s the memories we make while we are collecting “stuff” that last forever.

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But Thursday afternoon, our week came crashing down and all the things we were doing stopped abruptly when Tim arrived with the UHaul containing Maria’s furniture.

I returned home after picking up the key to her storage unit to find Tim standing in the driveway holding Kandi……Olivia’s precious dog Kandi that had been such an accidental gift in November…….and Kandi was dead.

Snoopy chases the Kentucky Power truck (and most other vehicles when they go by our house), and Kandi had joined her at the last minute.  Tim tried to jump out and stop her but had to jump back so he wouldn’t get hit, and Kandi’s life was taken.

As I saw Tim standing in our driveway holding her and shaking his head and screaming, “The KY Power truck!” I couldn’t even stop. I had a flashback to Tim holding Adrienne in our driveway the morning she died, and I drove to our neighbor’s and thankfully she pulled up right behind me and I ran to her car screaming.  I couldn’t stop screaming.  I had left Kandi outside, and I should have put her in, but Kandi loves playing in the yard with Snoopy and Peppy and I knew I’d be right back.

Tim’s friend Dean was at the house and together they buried her in our memory garden for Nick and Adrienne. 

Olivia is in Indianapolis, and I didn’t want her coming home to find Kandi gone.  She wasn’t home when Nick died, and I couldn’t relive watching her hear the news for the first time.  Kandi was Olivia’s best friend.  I rarely saw them apart when Olivia was at home.  They cuddled constantly.

I woke up yesterday morning and the reality of Kandi’s absence from our home brought back so many memories of waking to remember that Nick was not here.  I have cried so much in the past 24 hours……over a dog…..but honestly, she was part of our family and most of all, she healed a huge part of Olivia’s heart.

Last night, the youth sponsors told Olivia.  They said she was hysterical and thankfully, all the girls were there to comfort her and cry with her.

We had a rough evening of phone calls with her.  She kept crying and asking, “What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?  Kandi always cuddled with me?”  She wanted to know where Kandi was.  She wanted to know what everyone did when they found out Kandi had died.  She wanted to know exactly what happened and why the truck didn’t slow down.  I sat on the porch and cried as she sat in the hallway in Indianapolis and cried on the other end of the phone.

I told her that God has brought us through some horrible things, and I knew He would be with her through this pain. I told her Kandi was a gift during a time when she was very sick and needed someone to cuddle with her all the time.

I told her Kandi would always be with us.

I told her Evan wants to go find a puppy that needs a home.

What I haven’t told her yet is about what I found as I was in the road telling Evan and Maria that Kandi had been killed.  They had pulled through the campus of KCU just minutes after I found Tim in the driveway, and I ran to the window of the car and told them.  Maria started crying and I looked down on the road and saw this:

073011057 This shiny but very beat up penny was laying right by the door of his car.  It sparkled through its dents and I grabbed it and said, “LOOK!”

I took a picture of it late last night and thought, “This is what Christians are supposed to look like.  We shine through our dents.  We smile through our tears.”

I want to make Olivia a necklace with this penny.  I want her to remember that God is with us in our pain.  I felt as if the penny had been placed right there in that exact spot by God and Nick so that we would know that in the midst of the chaos on our street where we were crying, neighbors were crying, friends were crying……we were not alone.  The spiritual world was very aware of the pain on the earthly world, and I was thankful.

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I feel almost silly having such heartache over an animal, but our house feels empty again.  I in no way compare this to the loss of a child or spouse or any person we love deeply, but maybe part of it is how this loss has brought back the pain of deeper losses.Kandi’s absence from her chair reminds me of Nick’s absence from his.  The loss of Kandi’s joy reminds me of the loss of Nick’s smile from our lives….and the list goes on and on.

I think of the horrible tragedies in the world.  i think of things like tsunamis, tornadoes, and the Norwegian massacre, and I feel ashamed of all of my tears over Kandi, but love is love and loss is loss.  When we risk loving, we risk losing.  The gift must come in the loving part………and in that part I try to say “thank you,” because our house needed Kandi for the past 8 months.

My last words to Olivia last night were these, “As you fall to sleep tonight, try to think of ways to say “thank you” to God.  Thank Him that Kandi didn’t suffer.  Thank Him that we got to love Kandi and make so many special memories with her  Thank Him that there are other puppies to love.”

Please say a prayer for Olivia as she travels home today.  She is suppose to arrive at 6 this evening.  I am excited to hug her and dreading it at the same time.

I love you all so much and know that you love Olivia, so thank you for lifting her up to the God of compassion.

Dented deeply but trying to keep shining,

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I’ve discovered on my journey through grief and been reminded just today that one of the most painful parts of grieving for me is morning time.  I’ll share more tomorrow night.

But as the sun peeked through our mini-blinds this morning, I remembered with a heavy sigh that…..

Waking up to the reality of loss of any kind is like being swept back in time……

to the beginning of the pain

to the moment you first heard devastating news

to the moment when you knew that your next step would never match your last step

Today, I am thankful for this promise:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

What verses help you when you are sad or grieving?

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As I was reading Philippians 4 this morning, I discovered a verse in a whole new way!

Many of us have memorized Phil. 4:13 and probably quote it often (at least in our heads) when we are facing seemingly impossible events in our lives:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


This verse has inspired me, motivated me, encouraged me, and reminded me that even when I feel like giving up, I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST.

But look at the next verse!

Phil. 4:14

But it was good that you helped me when I needed it.

Yes, Paul knew he could do all things through Christ, but he was also very aware of the earthly help he needed from his church family.

In other words, part of the way that Jesus strengthens us to do “all things” is through the help of our Christian brothers and sisters.

Do you want to see others live strong Christian lives?

Do you want to live a strong Christian life?

Think of a way God can use you to be the hands of Jesus to someone else who needs strengthened and be willing to accept the hands of others who long to help you.

As we share life’s highs and lows, I believe we will all learn the secret to being able to “do all things.”

Thankful for each of you,

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The Next Thing……..

July 27th, 2011

 

At She Speaks this weekend, I was struck by a quote of Elizabeth Elliott’s that was shared in one of the workshops.

Being called by God is all about “doing the next thing” for Him.

As I sat and listened and thought about my life, I knew that “the next thing” for me was cleaning out my closet and getting ready for the upcoming school year!

I haven’t tackled my closet yet, but today I spent about 8 hours in my new classroom with 8 amazing high school students who came to help clean, paint, and rearrange furniture with me.

With Christian music playing, we dug in and transformed the room!

I loved walking by different kids as they were singing along with Casting Crowns or whoever was next on the playlist.  Most of the kids that helped me were friends of Nick’s, so I felt surrounded by him all day long. The only coin that was found all day while purging bookshelves and cabinets was ONE PENNY on the very top of the tallest bookshelf under a stack of papers!!  Jon found it!! 🙂 It made us all smile!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

I thought I’d share a little of our day.

I’ll dive back into Philippians later tonight.

        We decided to take a few pictures of practice “students” and in walked my principal! 🙂  It was so funny, because all of the kids were pretending to be texting in class!    

We had to take a thumbs up picture too!!

When we reach of place of letting go or emptying our lives of the things weighing us down, there comes a sense of being handed more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Letting go and emptying ourselves of worry gives more time for joy

Letting go and emptying our need for more “earthly stuff” gives more room for contentment

Letting go and emptying ourselves of the pressure of “one more” household chore gives more time for front porch rocking and friendship sharing

Letting go and emptying ourselves of anger gives more time for love

Letting go and emptying ourselves of the need to control everything around us gives others the chance to step in and lead

Letting go and emptying ourselves of “us” gives God a chance to feel us with Him

This weekend as I sat in workshops at She Speaks (a conference for Christian writers and speakers), I found myself being called to let go and empty myself.

As the messages were shared in the main sessions, we were challenged to “let God chisel us even when it hurt, unclench our hands of the things to which we hold on tightly allowing our open hands to be filled by Him, and then in faith simply do the next thing…..”

After the official conference ended, I sat in a hotel suite Sunday night with eight other women from all over the United States who have different stories, messages, and journeys.  While there, I found myself being called to a deeper level of letting go and emptying of myself.

We had all been a part of a pre-reading of Renee Swope’s new book, A Confident Heart, answering questions and giving feedback over a five-month period.  But we had never met before Sunday afternoon.

I remember walking into the hotel room feeling intimidated, inadequate, and insecure; emotions which seemed so contradictory to the Scriptures we had read and studied as we had read Renee’s book.  We introduced ourselves and Renee told a little bit about each of our stories before we went to dinner.  During dinner we made small talk and got to know each other little better, but I never dreamed what would happen as the evening moved on.

When we returned to the room, we sat in a circle  with our notebook copies of Renee’s book and begin to talk.  Originally, we were going to make video clips for her Bible study and share a bit of our testimony.

However, one lady began sharing some deeper issues of her heart and before we knew it, we were all crying.

As one after one, we all opened up, let go of any sense of pride, and emptied our “not so confident” hearts, the room was filled with nine hurting women.  Different stories, different pain, but one common thread drew us together….the need for a confidence that comes from Christ alone.

As I emptied my heartache to them – my deep feelings of sadness that still consume me in my grief at times as I miss Nick more than words can say – I found myself being filled with an even deeper peace and joy than I have ever felt since his death. 

I never dreamed when I entered the room earlier in the afternoon that I would later that very night let down my wall, let go of my smile and laughter, and simply be “me” with a group of women I did not know.

I let go of a lot this weekend but the one thing I released to God completely was my deep need for Nick’s story to have a bigger impact on the world than simply drawing me closer to Him.

Yes, I believe Nick still changes lives.  I know he still teaches me, my family, and his friends that life is fragile and that what we do for God is all that matters.  I want Nick’s life and death to matter.  I want to know he still helps others who are hurting and that in my pain I somehow help them too.

But in the end, the impact of Nick’s passing has pressed me into the heart of God deeply, profoundly, and eternally………

and if this reality were the only good thing resulting from my broken heart than it would be enough……….

I am filled with hope and joy as I let go of that need, trusting God to do the good work He has planned in my pain.  I am filled to overflowing as I empty myself of my plans.

In the prayer room, I found my name in the lower right corner of this name for God, Jehovah-Rohi, The Lord is My Shepherd.  I love the words that follow this truth in Psalm 23…

“I SHALL NOT WANT.”

When we find ourselves in a place of “not wanting,” than I believe we are filled.

Only by letting go of the staff, like Moses was called to do, can we truly allow God to lead and be our Shepherd.

Sheep don’t need a staff….they need a Shepherd.

What are you holding onto today that you need to let go of?

In what do you need to empty yourself?

When you make the choice to say, “I’m letting go.”  I promise that God will become your Shepherd in a whole new way and bring you to the very freeing words of Psalm 23,

“I SHALL NOT WANT.”

I love you all so much.

Thank you for praying for me while I was away.

You will be happy to know that when I arrived home this afternoon, I made a very conscious choice not to stress about “things undone” and instead spent time in a rocking chair talking to my mom on the phone, visiting with Evan and Todd, and taking a three-hour nap! 

Here are some pictures from my weekend.

This precious lady who authored a book she gave me entitled, “Heavenly Minded for an Earthly Good,” adopted a sweet boy from India in memory of Nick!! 🙂 Nick is smiling, I just know it!

Ann Voscamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, cried as she heard of the loss of Nick and Adrienne.  She said to me, “You’ve lived these words.”  I whispered, “You helped me.”  I adore Ann in every way.  Visit her blog A Holy Experience if you want to be inspired.

Melanie Dorsey and I finally met!  Rooming with someone you have been friends with for almost two years but have never seen in person is very special. Her son Andrew died a year after Nick at about the same age and from the same thing.  Our common blogging friend, Susan, introduced us and we have walked the road of grief together.  We are working on a Bible study together which we hope will help others who live a life where God seems to be sleeping during the storm. I was so happy to see my friend Kelly!  As the mom of a son with autism, she has written a book called “The Hidden Blessings of Autism” which I highly recommend for moms who are living this kind of parenting out daily.  Jessica, do not order this book.  I have an autographed copy for you! 🙂 God brought me and Dawn together in such a special way, and I am saving that story to share on another day.  Until then, please pray for Dawn as she lives in very new grief.

 

Here are my new precious friends from Sunday night. 

We are all women who walk very different and tough roads and who find our confidence in Christ and Christ alone.

Emptied yet filled and praying you can find yourself saying the same of you,

Does anyone else ever feel like you slip back into old ways???? I’m sure glad Paul wrote these words in Romans 7:

We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not spiritual since sin rules me as if I were its slave. I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate. And if I do not want to do the hated things I do, that means I agree that the law is good. But I am not really the one who is doing these hated things; it is sin living in me that does them. Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them. I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do. So if I do things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things.

So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind, I am happy with God’s law. But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner. What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful self I am a slave to the law of sin.

I decided to drive home last night from Frankfort so I could see the kids and Tim and do some last-minute packing changes before heading to Charlotte today. I didn’t think driving early this morning straight into the bright sunrise sounded too safe either because I would have had to leave Frankfort at 6:00 a.m.

As I drove home, I made some phone calls to the house and found myself getting all worked up.
Olivia had injured her foot at basketball practice the night before and Tim had chosen to spare me the worry by not telling me………………………….not realizing that I would hear the news from a 13-year old friend of Olivia’s.
Tim did take her to a friend of ours who is a physical therapist and have it looked at before I got home, and it looks like she has pulled something in the base of her foot which makes it painful to put any weight on it at all. I know in the scheme of everything this is no big deal, but I think that having seen Olivia have such a weak and rough spring, it just hit my heart in a painful way thinking that she is going to reenter her new season injured.
Then, I arrived at the house to discover a mound of dirty laundry that didn’t look quite as tall as Mt. Everest, but honestly, I was only gone 48 hours………….WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I MISS HERE………….A FASHION SHOW THAT INVOLVED SEVERAL OUTFITS PER PERSON EACH DAY?
As I moved through the house, I was greeted by counter tops covered with crumbs and on and on.
I knew deep in my heart that Tim had been busy with several church situations………….a death of someone’s grandma and an emergency room visit by another church member.
I knew deep in my heart that Tim had taken Olivia and a friend to a movie.
I knew deep in my heart that Tim had been busy helping with a few of my last-minute things for the conference I’m flying to in a few hours……………….
BUT…………………
The devil knew I was weak, and oh, did he have a victory last night.
I had listened to Joyce Meyer all the way home (in between phone calls trying to check on things at home.) I heard about the abundant life we can claim in Jesus’ name. I had been reminded that the devil wants to steal this from us.
BUT………………….
Everything I heard somehow managed to stay in the car.
I entered our house tired and OVERWHEMED…………………
Few words were spoken as I moved from room to room picking things up and choosing to feel like a maid who had been off duty long enough to see a house fall apart……………………….
I’m pretty sure everyone here wishes I would have stayed in Frankfort one more night. I did rub Olivia’s foot for awhile before she fell to sleep…………………for that reason alone, I’m thankful I came home. 🙂
Well, it’s morning and I am leaving again.
Please say a prayer for my family while I’m gone. Please pray that Olivia does okay on her youth group trip and that her foot heals quickly. She’ll be doing a lot of walking next week.
Please say a prayer that I can return on Monday evening and enter my house without slipping into an ugly mood.
Please pray I can remember these words,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came

that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

Praying you have an abundant and slip-free day,

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Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Phil 4:4

“Chairo,” the Greek word for “rejoice” means

“to be happy, or calmly cheerful.”

Now, I’m going to be the first to say that sometimes it does not seem easy to be happy….

or even calmly cheerful.

Life is not easy.

When I close my eyes for just a minute, I can think of so many different people who are facing painful times as I type these words.  Grief, job loss, illness, friendship problems, marriage problems, and the list goes on and on….

To look them in the eye and say, “Rejoice,” would seem heartless.

But I think the KEY to this verse and the KEY to staying in a joyful state is that Paul says,

“Rejoice in the Lord!”

He doesn’t say, “Rejoice in your pain.  Rejoice in your sorrow.  Rejoice in your trials.”

No, our rejoicing comes from knowing that we are in the Lord!

When I remember that, I feel better.

I am sure that when Paul looked up at the metal bars in front of him, separating him from freedom, and when he thought about his future which was very uncertain as he awaited trial, he didn’t say, “I rejoice in this situation.”

No.  His rejoicing came from being in the Lord.

Think about this:

If you are “in the Lord,” you are safe NO MATTER WHAT!

There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God..Romans promises this!

Smile tonight, even through your tears, knowing that God is with you and He loves you with an everlasting love.

Rejoice in Him!

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Resting in His Shadow…..

July 20th, 2011

 

PSALM 91:1-2

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust.”

Well, it’s finally here.

The week-long series of events that I have tried not to stress about all summer long.

I have to be on the road in the next few minutes, but I wanted to take a minute to simply say this,

“I love you all so very much and I am praying for you today as I travel.”

Without the shadow of the Almighty over me, I know I could not keep pressing on with such determination.

But I feel as if I have an army of angels with me at all times, and because of that I feel empowered.

I want you to claim that power too.

Life is tough.

Sometimes I reflect on specific memories that our family has experienced, and I can barely breathe.

I see Nick in the hospital.

I see him at home when he was so sick he could barely lift his head.

I see Tim carrying Adrienne’s little coffin from the KCU chapel.

The list goes on and on…

But in the midst of all of these memories, I see God.

Only He could carry us through such dark times, and because of that I know he will carry me through the next week’s busy and uncertain schedule.

He promises to cover you with His almighty shadow too.

He longs to carry you through your day.

Lean back in His love and know He is there.

Until tomorrow,

 

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Philippians 4:1-3

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul is all about “fighting the good fight of faith,” but he is definitely not a supporter of disagreements within the church family.

Now, I don’t know why I stopped on these verses this morning and just couldn’t move on.  I wanted to talk about Phil. 4:4 which has been my favorite verse since I was a little girl.

But I couldn’t.

I felt like there was someone who needed to hear something today about the passage above.

Maybe you’re reading this and find yourself in a place of disagreement with a Christian brother or sister.

Maybe you’re reading this and find yourself stuck between people who are not getting along.

In either case, I think it is comforting to realize that even in the church 2000 years ago there were people who had difficulties with each other.  Maybe the church had been meeting in one person’s house and now had moved to the other’s. Maybe Paul had visited one of them a little more often than the other.  Maybe they both liked to sing and didn’t receive equal opportunities to share their gift.  I don’t know.

All I know is Paul loves them both, he “implores” them both to get along, he says they are both going to be in Heaven, but he cares enough about their conflict to address them in a letter that will be read to the entire congregation.

How embarrassing…

How long are we going to wait to make peace with others who love Jesus?

Are we going to wait until God takes extreme measures to call us to unity in a way that may not be quite so private?

I hope not.

Sometimes I like to close my eyes and ask myself, “Who do I have something against right now?  Who has something against me?”

If someone comes to mind, I try my best to address it.

I remember about two years ago as I was doing this that someone came to mind that I hadn’t seen in several years. I knew that when we last spent time together things were tense.  As I thought about this person, I knew that both of us had handled things poorly in a stressful situation.  But I also knew that I was older and I was the one being convicted.  I had to do something to make peace with this Christian friend.

I found them on Facebook and wrote them a long letter apologizing for my part in our stressed friendship.

I nervously waited thinking that if I did not hear back from them then surely they hated me, but within just a few hours I received a long and very sweet reply.  We both realized that during that season of life both of us were going through a lot of emotional things that had caused us to handle life in ways that weren’t the most kind or forgiving. 

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh……

The peace that washed over me was indescribable.

As I write this today, I’m praying that you will choose to take a few minutes to close your eyes and ask, “Who has anything against me?  Who do I have any thing against?”

If someone comes to mind, say a prayer and then take the first step towards reconciliation.

If you know of brothers or sisters who are not getting along, maybe God is calling you to be the peacemaker.  Reach out to these people..maybe not by writing a letter to your church that mentions their names (unless you are in prison and feel that is your only option)…but reach out to them in a way that shows you love them and you care.

When I think of all of the horrific things going on in our world these days, I can totally understand how God has little patience with Christians who simply can’t agree. 

When we stand before God and see the glory of His throne, all of our earthly “conflicts” are going to seem so pointless.

Clean your slate today.

You will feel so free!

I love the passage in Hebrews 10 that says we are to be

“encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Every day we are one day closer to that great Day, and I believe God is calling us all to be encouragers!

We don’t have time to fight!

Thankful for all of you,

heartBG2

 

Saturday evening, Tim and I rode to Garrison, Ohio, with another couple from KCU to attend the visitation of a16 year-old boy named Drew who was electrocuted during a welding accident this past week.  His grandparents work with my husband, and we wanted to be there to express our love to them in this time of deep sadness.

When we arrived, the visitation line was well outside the door and groups of people stood around the parking lot in small huddles crying and visiting before leaving the funeral home.  As we walked through the funeral home in a winding fashion, we were able to see the story of Drew’s life unfold through photographs and other things that showed Drew’s personality and passions.  He was a farm boy who loved to ride his horse.  His smile was beautiful and you could tell from the pictures that this family shared many wonderful memories.

Drew’s grandpa told us that they had spent the past two days clearing out a section of their 500-acre farm where Drew had always said he was going to build his house when he grew up.  That part of the farm will now be a family cemetery. 

Drew’s grandpa said with a tear-filled smile, “It is so beautiful, and it helped us all to have something to do together the past couple of days.”

Please whisper a prayer for Drew’s family every time you think of them.  His mom is really struggling, and my heart breaks for her tonight.  I remember that early chest-crushing grief so vividly, and I know that only time will lessen that feeling of being unable to breathe deeply.

Tonight, I am wondering how Drew’s mom, dad, sister, and other family members are doing. When I hugged his grandma, she asked through tears, “When will it be over?”  I didn’t have an answer.

I knew deep inside it never really is, but I also knew it does get easier……..

Hearing those words (“It will get easier”) seems meaningless when you are in deep agony, though, so I chose to just hug her and tell her I love her.  She said, “I’m going to need to talk to you later.” and I replied, “I’ll be here.”

The truth is, I have no words to fix their pain.

Only His Words can do that……..and time.

Lifting up a hurting family to the One who promises to be close to the broken hearted,