I hope this story isn’t anti-climatic after waiting several days.

I needed time to be quiet and reflect on every little aspect of this story, because it will forever be the most life-changing event in my grief journey………….


My friend Vicki and I were sitting on her porch Wednesday evening having a little visit and catching up on each other’s lives when one of our friends drove by and asked us to keep our eyes open for her dog. 

He had gotten out of her yard, and she couldn’t find him.

Before we knew it, we were in my car driving around town with the windows down saying, “Ollie, Come here, Ollie!”

Turning down road after road, we began to laugh thinking, “How did this happen?”

Little did we know the adventure of the night was just beginning and a huge part of my grief journey was going to coming to a peaceful end.

Honestly, Ollie’s attempt at freedom became the door to mine.


After driving up and down several roads, Vicki and I ended up in an alley where several families were setting up for a yard sale.

I rolled down my window to ask if they had seen a brown boxer to which they replied, “He was here just five minutes ago.”

As I was talking to them, I spotted this lamp on one of their tables that looked pretty.

I hopped out of the car to look at it while Vicki was laughing at me from the car.

I looked at the lady who was pricing the items and said, “I really like this lamp.  We’ll be back!”

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After Ollie was finally  caught on Main Street (Thank you, Troy Combs and Amy Stephens for being so quick on your feet!), Vicki and I hugged Trish (Ollie’s owner) and headed back to our surprise Wednesday night yard sale (Who has yard sales in the middle of the week?)

The lamp was only $2, so I made my first purchase.

Then this sign caught my eye!

I have a teacher-friend named Angel, and I thought this would be a perfect gift to hang by her desk.

I never dreamed just how angelic my night would become!

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I found a basket that I liked and was fairly sure I had seen everything that interested me.

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Then this box caught my eye…………

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Laying in the box were several pieces to a Nativity set and under them were more wrapped pieces.

I looked at Vicki and said, “I have to buy this!”

(I have a special connection with Nativity sets………

Partly because the night before Nick passed away Mom and I watched the movie “The Nativity”  as Nick lay sleeping on the couch right behind us.

And partly because Nick’s death gave me an entirely different perspective of the Nativity sets sitting all around my house.

Before Nick passed away I had always looked at my Nativity sets as a “group event” focused on Jesus in the manger. 

I had never really stopped and looked at each part of the Nativity scene in such a personal away, wondering how each character and animal responded to the birth of baby Jesus.

After Nick’s death, my Nativity sets began to reflect Jesus’ entire life journey from his birth to his death – especially as I looked at Mary and remembered how God had called her “blessed among women” even when He knew that one day she would kneel at the cross and watch her son die a horrific death.)

As we were leaving the yard sale, I was talking with Vicki about how Mary has become so special to me.

Her life story reminds me that God’s definition of “blessed” isn’t always the same as ours.

When I got home later that evening, I began unwrapping each piece of the set so I could show Tim and so I could see what was hidden beneath the newspaper.

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The beauty of each piece took my breath away.

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Baby Jesus was positioned in such a way that his future death could almost be seen in the way he was holding his arms and feet….

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I couldn’t believe that all of this had fit in one not-so-big box.

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And then, as I sat all the pieces out across the coffee table, Tim noticed that Mary’s hands were missing…….

broken and gone…….

the only part of this beautiful glass set that wasn’t perfect.

I knew at that very moment God was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it could be.

For some reason, I said to Tim, “I wonder how long this Nativity set has been boxed up?”

And I decided to look at the date on the newspaper it was all wrapped in………

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My heart stopped as I realized this was Nick’s first Christmas.

Seventeen years ago someone in Lexington, Kentucky, had wrapped up this Nativity set and God has been saving it for me ever since.

I texted Trish to see if she was awake and when she replied, “yes,” I called to tell her to please not be upset with Ollie for running away.

I told her with a smile that I really thought Nick had let him go so I would find this yard sale.

Then I told her the story of the Nativity set and the newspaper date.

She couldn’t believe it!

As we were talking, I told her about Mary’s hands being gone and I said, “Maybe God is saying, “Let go, Tammy. It’s okay.”

We got off the phone, and I went back down to sit and look through the old newspaper.

I still felt like God had something to tell me.

I felt like I was unwrapping a mystery.

Then I found these pages…………..

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I knew God was saying, “Tammy, your sweet Nick had his first Christmas in 1995, and now he is a special Christmas angel.”

I was speechless.

I slowly took out each piece of newspaper and pressed it down, folding it so that I could save it forever.

And in the middle of one of the sheets of paper I found this………..

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Mary’s hands!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I sat the hands by the Nativity set and took several pictures. nativity 0070007

I wanted to somehow show the brokenness of Mary, the cost of being the mother of Jesus, the calling God placed on her life to love and let go……

As I was snapping the photos, my phone vibrated.

I received a text.

Trish (the owner of the dog we had chased and the only friend I think would have remembered what happened in the spring right after Nick passed away) had texted me after thinking about Mary’s missing hands and what they could mean. 

She had remembered my story from Sunday school three years ago, and I believe that is why HER DOG was the dog we chased who eventually led us to the yard sale where I found the Nativity set.

Her text then brought everything together.

The lost Ollie.

The yard sale.

The Nativity set.

The date on the newspaper.

The broken Mary.

The thought of “letting go” seeming too cold, too difficult, too impossible.

The longing to not be broken yet the realization that there would never be a way to be the “old me” again.

Her text said,

“Remember when Beth Moore told you, “You will be whole!”

I did remember!

I remembered how the words had given me hope.

I remembered how the words had given me strength.

But I also remembered how the words had made me scared.

Scared that in becoming whole I would somehow forget Nick, forget Adrienne, forget what it feels like to grieve.

As I read Trish’s text again, I looked back down at Mary.

I looked at her missing hands.

I looked at the pair of hands sitting beside her.

And I lifted them up.

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I held them in place.

And suddenly I knew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can be whole and broken at the same time,

if I just let God hold me together!

I thought of the verse in Colossians that says, 

He is before all things, and in him all

things hold together.

Because of Him I can be whole while remaining broken.

Maybe, just maybe, God doesn’t say “let go” when we lose someone we love.

Maybe He says, “Let me help you hold on.”

If you want to read the story of my encounter with Beth Moore in 2009, click  here and here.

If you want to read the story that I wrote about Adrienne sharing the same middle name as Beth Moore’s granddaughter Annabeth, click here.

If I hadn’t written this particular entry in February of 2009, I don’t think my encounter with Beth in March of that same year would have ever happened in the way that it did.

When I wrote it, I had no idea how God was going to use the story to connect Beth’s heart with mine.


I took so long to write this post, because I didn’t want to leave out any details.

I wanted to share it along with past links so that you could see how God has been working for more than three years to bring me to this place in my grief.

And I write this because I want you all to know and believe that GOD IS ALWAYS WORKING!

Maybe it’s through the posting of a story, the search for a lost dog, a purchase from a yard sale, the wrapping of newspaper around glass objects, the breaking of hands or the finding of them…….

Whatever it may be, GOD IS ALWAYS WORKING.

Know today that your yesterdays and your tomorrows are already being connected in beautiful ways.

You may not understand why things have happened the way they have (I know I don’t),

and in your wildest dreams you may never predict where and how your life events will connect.

But rest in this knowledge,

“God knows.”

And that’s all that really matters.