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Walking Forward in Grief CV Lay-Off Day:45

We celebrated Luke’s ninth birthday last week; his big birthday wish was to go camping. Tim and I have camped in the past, long before we met each other. But we’ve never gone camping together as a family. When we moved back to Arizona four years ago, learning how to camp was on our bucket list. But, after losing Justin, our family went into survival mode, and that bucket list went on the backburner.  The more we thought about Luke’s request, the better his idea seemed to us. We needed a change a scenery.

After much preparation, we headed out on the open road, late Friday morning. Our destination was a State Park on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. Google said it would take 3.5 hours to get there; it took us much longer. It was a long, slow ride through mountain roads with hairpin turns of which I am not a fan. And then, as we were entering another canyon out in the middle of nowhere, our check engine light came on. After finding a safe place to pull over, Tim got out, popped the hood, and couldn’t find any glaring issues. Once back on the road, we eased down the mountain terrain until we reached the next city, which was about 60 miles away. In the meantime, we prayed for safety, and I tried in vain to get a signal on my cellphone just in case we needed to find alternative lodging.

We made it without incident to the auto supply store. The kind gentlemen ran the code on our truck and determined that something was clogged in our airflow system. (I am sure there a better technical term for this, but this is the best explanation I’ve got.) Somehow, the problem corrected itself, and the check engine light magically disappeared; we were back in business. An hour later, we rolled into the State Park and found our campsite. The lake immediately magnetized the boys; they couldn’t wait to skip rocks and see frogs.

Everyone pitched in to set up camp, and before I knew it, it was dinner time. We went with easy and had hot dogs and beans. Afterward, the family roasted marshmallows and ate smores; I even brought my 90% dark chocolate so I wouldn’t feel left out. Chilled by the cool breeze coming off of the lake, we huddled around the campfire with the smell of burning mesquite wood filling the air. The stress of the day melted away as we gazed at the stars and marveled at God’s handiwork. The boys headed to bed first. I smiled as I listened to their giggles and watched their shadows dance against the red nylon tent.

In truth, the preparation leading up to our outing was a good deal of work. Adding to that, all week long, I felt like I was walking upstream. The night before we left, the night of Luke’s birthday, I stood in our kitchen, enfolded in Tim and Sarah’s arms, and wept. Justin’s absence is especially magnified on special days of celebration. Justin loved camping and being out in the wilderness. I know that he would have been all over this trip, hyping up the boys, and making us all a little crazy every step of the way.

In the end, I am so glad that we went on our adventure. We learned a lot for first-timers, and have a better idea of what to expect for the next time. Mostly, I am grateful that we bonded as a family; we came home a little closer and a little lighter. In my book, that’s a win.

Stepping out and doing something new amid grief will never be easy, but in doing so, the Lord meets me with His healing balm and provides His touch of comfort. Even in the littlest of things, He cares.

Until tomorrow,


“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

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Tender Mercies in the Morning CV Lay-Off Day: 26

This morning, the birds serenaded me out of bed extra early. Grabbing my Bible and journal, I crept downstairs. After opening the blinds by my favorite blue chair, I headed to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. None of this is ordinary, because 99% of the time, Tim wakes up first.

I had just a few minutes in the Word before I heard movement upstairs. Soon, our resident early riser, Luke, joined me. As he snuggled in next to me in my chair, his little hand started caressing the onion skin pages of my Bible that lay open on my lap. With his raspy morning voice, he began asking me questions about the Bible and what I was reading. After answering him, I asked him if he’d like me to read Psalm 18 aloud. With the shake of his head yes, I told him,

“This is a Psalm from King David.”
“King David? Who was he?” he asked.
“Remember David; he’s the one who fought Goliath?” I replied
“Oh, yeah.”
“Well, this is a Psalm he wrote. ”
“David, Luke David,” he said.
“Right, we named you after King David, Luke.”
“Because David was a man after God’s own heart, and that’s what we are praying for you.”

As I proceeded to read Psalm 18, he let out a contented sigh and snuggled in a little closer. There it was, that was the reason I awoke so early. It was for that sweet connection. Because a short while later that morning, Luke’s beta fish (who he talked to every night) died. And then to make matters worse, his turtle bit him drawing blood.

Typically, these two things together would have ruined his day. Because since losing Justin, little losses are expressed in considerable ways. But this time, while he was initially quite distraught, the day was not lost. To my surprise, after a short time, he moved on and enjoyed the rest of the morning.

My prayers are being answered right before my eyes. I am witnessing the Lord healing my little boy’s heart. And on this Monday, that gives me every reason to smile.

Until tomorrow,


The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV



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Family Matters CV: Lay-off Day: 17

This evening, right around dinner time (it’s always dinner time for us, isn’t it?) the tension was a bit thick in our home. It felt like I spent at least half of the day disciplining my boys, and putting out fires. Two of my sons (who I just corrected) were jumping on the trampoline and saw me through the kitchen window. They smiled big and waved, and that’s when I realized that I was clenching my teeth. 

In hopes of the lightning the mood, I gathered seven or eight votive candles leftover from Thanksgiving and had Sarah line the table with them. Then, I cranked up our favorite City Alight album, “Only a Holy God,” and set the table with our fancy black plastic plate. Ha!

The boys were still quietly bickering as we finished up our grilled chicken and baked potatoes. Suddenly, I had an idea, we were going to encourage one another! So, we focused on one person at a time and then went around the table and shared one (or several) different ways that we saw God’s giftings in them. Strategically, we started with the child who had the most challenging day and then love-bombed him.  

After our time together tonight, I made a few observations:

  1. Two of my boys who have been complaining a lot also had a tough time sharing encouragement about one another. As their Mama, this grieves my heart, and I plan to make it a matter of prayer.  
  2. After an hour of going around the table, our mood shifted considerably. What would happen if we began the first ten minutes of our day praising God together as a family? I have a feeling that my help with our problem mentioned in number one. 
  3. When Justin and Sarah were little, we used to do stuff like this all the time. Getting back to the basics is a gift and necessary. 
  4. We all need encouragement. By the end of the evening, Tim, Sarah, and I were all choked up. It’s been a rough few weeks or few years…

You know, right before Tim was laid-off, I felt like we were finally finding our rhythm again. Now, here we are adjusting to yet another new normal with no sure timeline of how long all of this will last.

With all of these things in mind, I remember Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” 

Even when we don’t understand, we take the posture of King David and trust in the Lord. And then, we pour out our hearts to the Lord, which means we can tell Him everything. I am so grateful that it’s not up to me to figure this all out, but instead, I  take refuge in Him and wait for Him to move. How great is our God!

Until tomorrow,