Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

It's been forever since I've posted, but I've determined that 2012 will be the year that I start blogging a bit more consistently. So here I go.

This Fall has been a whirlwind for our family. Back in July, the leadership at HLCC decided that they wanted me to base out of Fresno and take on a full-time role in Church Relations, with a major emphasis on Adult Ministries. This meant packing up the last 14 years of life at Hume and moving to Clovis. (Fortunately, two years earlier we bought a house and had been renting it to some great friends.) My boss let me know that he wanted us to move in mid-September. With the baby coming on September 14, I begged for a November 1 move. He was good with that and it was time to start packing. It's been a good transition and we're quickly adapting to life in the "outside" world.

Titus Levi Carey came into the world on September 14, and what a blessing he has been to our family. Our first three months with him haven't been without their challenges though. I think some people believed that bringing a new baby into the world would solve all of our pain from losing Elyse. The fact is that nothing or no one could ever replace our little girl. She will always be a part of this family.

We knew we'd have some sort of baggage with a new baby, but didn't know exactly what that would look like. For both of us, we realized early on we were holding back a lot of affection that Ty deserved. The problem was that we were afraid to completely bond with him for fear of losing him. Having experienced this kind of loss first-hand, it's just too easy to imagine the worse case scenario. Once we realized some of these issues we were able to really work on these things and have really been enjoying the last month with Titus.

Titus has such an engaging smile, and tries as hard as he can to talk to us. This boy communicates in ways that we never saw Peter or Elyse do at this age. His name means "giant" or "defender," and we pray often that he would take on those traits as he grows in a love and passion for serving the Lord.

There's much more to tell about our world, but I'll save it for later. We appreciate your prayers for our family as well as for our extended family right now. There are several challenges, but God is so good and faithful and we are grateful for His daily work in our lives. On a daily basis my prayer is to be obedient to His Word and sensitive to His Spirit.

I look forward to future posts and sharing some really cool stories of how God continues to show Himself faithful.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We could use some prayer

So this coming Wednesday, September 14, is the scheduled arrival of our new little boy (name to be announced with statistics upon his arrival.) April is scheduled for a 7:30am C-Section, which means we'll probably be meeting this little guy around 8am. I will definitely post a lot of pictures on my Facebook page, so keep your eyes open.

In the meantime, we could really use some prayer for some very specific things:

  • April has come down with some sort of stomach flu, and being only 3 days out, this obviously presents some major complications, not to mention just the pain and discomfort she's feeling. I'm praying for complete healing from this.
  • I am coming down with a chest cold, and if it's anything like my last one (and it's acting like it is,) this could wipe me out. With April having a C-Section, I really need to be around for her in those first few days and this would really make that difficult. Again, praying for complete healing.
  • Our final prayer request is very general. We know that welcoming a new baby to our house is going to be a joyful occasion, but in all honesty this enters us into a scary time, one full of intense emotions, fears of potential loss, memories of Elyse, and so much more. We can't help but think that this first year with our new little guy will be extremely challenging in so many ways. We must be desperately dependent upon the Lord. We must seek him everyday. We must put our fears into His hands. But obviously all these things can't be done on our own strength. So we ask you to simply pray for God's peace to rest on this family in a very clear way.
Thank you friends for supporting, loving, and walking with us through the last 19 months. You will never know how much you mean to us and how grateful we are for you taking us before Christ in every step of this journey. We are blessed beyond belief.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Elyse's 2nd Birthday

Elyse's 2nd birthday is coming up on the 27th. So hard to believe. Lots of great memories and lots of wondering: What would she be like? How much trouble would she be getting into? How much different would she be than her brother at 2?

So how will we celebrate her 2nd birthday you ask...? By running a Half-Marathon and going to Disneyland of course!

We'll head south and on Saturday the 26th I'm running in The Great Race of Agoura, a really cool and slightly challenging trail run through the foothills of the Conejo Valley in Southern California. Running has become somewhat of a refuge over the last year. It provides me time outside to be alone with God, work out my frustrations and actually stay in shape rather than sit at home and eat my way to oblivion. This will be the 3rd Half Marathon for me since we lost Elyse, and each one is run in honor of her. (You can see my progress and even track me live during the race here.)

If I'm still able to function after 13.1 miles, we'll spend Sunday (her birthday) at Disneyland, enjoying our time as a family, and doing our annual balloon release at 1:06pm, the time of her birth. We're anticipating a quality time filled with joy and laughter, as well as the tears of missing our little girl and definitely wishing she was with us to enjoy the day.

(As a side note, if any of our So Cal friends have connections for Disneyland passes, we would be so grateful for the help.)

All in all, as we look toward March 27, we definitely hurt, yet we look forward with hope. It is so hard to see that 2nd birthday coming and to miss all of our dreams and hopes for our little girl, yet the hope we have in heaven truly does overshadow it. We know she is held by Jesus. We know she is in perfection and without any kind of hurt or pain. We know she is glorified and even more beautiful than she was on this earth (and she really was beautiful on this earth.) And ultimately, we know that she's been saved by a sovereign God that loves and cares for us, who provides every need we have for every day. He has given us the strength to move forward and has carried us through the hardest of times in life. He sustains. He loves. He cares. HE IS GOOD!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

One Year

This coming Tuesday, February 15, marks the 1 year point. One year ago our little girl departed the confines of this earth to live in eternity with Jesus; to live in a world with no pain or tears. We hate the fact that she isn't with us any more, yet treasure the fact that she knows her Savior intimately now.

So much has happened in the last year that it's impossible to put it all into words. So many different emotions. So much pain. So much grief. So much healing. So much joy. So much...

Our lives are changed forever. We're part of an elite club now, a club no one ever desires to join, yet one that's full of the deepest pain and some of the deepest riches known.

So what are my reflections at one year???

God remains good, faithful and sovereign.  I've used those words over and over, yet they ring as true today as they did on February 14, 2009.

We grieve the loss of our daughter each and every day.  One year does not make us grieve her loss any more or less. It's still the new normal that we live under every day. The pain eases and the tears become farther apart, yet we are acutely aware of the fact that a major part of us will always be missing.

My specific grief at the one year mark tends to center more around the event rather than the loss. Lately I have been having many flashbacks to the trauma of that day, and the days immediately following. These are very difficult and painful memories that are permanently ingrained on me.

I praise God for my wife. April is the most amazing woman on this earth and I am so grateful to be married to her and to have her to walk with down this rough road. I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am for the strength of our marriage and God's hand on us as a couple in this last year.

God has His hands on Peter's life. A year ago many people took our son on as their specific prayer project. I praise God for how He's carried Peter through this year. Peter has no memories that we know of from the trauma of the day. He remembers her, talks about her often, even prays for her. He still considers her part of the family and many nights kisses her picture goodnight. We ask him regularly where his sis is, and his response is a quick, "She's in heaven with Jesus." There are many times that April and I are sad and it's obvious to him. He will soften his voice and the conversation goes something like this:
Peter: "Daddy, are you sad?"
Me: "Yes Peter."
Peter: "Daddy, you crying? You miss Sis?" 
Me: "Yes Peter"
Peter: "I miss Sis too."
We prayed throughout the pregnancy with Elyse that she and Peter would have a special life-long bond. We truly believe God answered those prayers and continues to answer them to this day. He will always have a special place in his heart for her.

I'm utterly dependent on God.  Throughout this year it's become painfully apparent that I just can't survive outside of His strength. His power is truly made perfect in my weakness. Before Elyse left us, I was able to get by on my own strength a lot of the time. While in word I testified of my need for Christ everyday, I don't know that my heart really sensed it. Today I can say with all integrity that without Him I am nothing. I desperately need Him!

There are some great practical ways to grieve loss.
1. Advice we got shortly after Elyse died was to "be kind to yourselves." Translated: Don't feel like you need to live up to anyone's expectations. Don't feel like you need to please anyone. Be honest in your grief.
2. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.  In the days and weeks after she was gone, we walked almost every day, if not every other. It became a lifeblood for us. We were able to enjoy fresh air, get perspective, talk and cry together, yell at God if need be, and just burn off frustration. This ultimately resulted in both of us running a Half Marathon last June in San Diego.
3. Sleep... but not too much. Grief exhausts you and we learned that quickly. Sleep was so necessary to get us from one day to the next.
4. Don't stop functioning. We had to keep getting up every day and moving forward. We still had a son to raise and couldn't give up on him. We both look back at Peter as being a crucial part of our healing in the last year. He kept us unified and focused on the need to be functional parents raising him in a functional home.
5. Counseling is a very good thing. Three different sessions with a professional counselor were invaluable in keeping us moving in the right direction. And it wasn't bad for our marriage either. ;)

There is so much more I could say, but let me sum things up by saying that God is good. He is faithful. He is strong. He is sovereign. And nothing I can say or do and nothing that happens to me will change that truth.

For the one year anniversary, we'll be spending Sunday afternoon with April's amazing family and then will be heading to the coast for 3 days with some great friends who have helped carry us through this year.

And to all of you that have continued to follow us, encourage us and lift us up before the Lord, we are humbled and simply say thank you. You have carried the paralytic, dug through the roof and placed him in the presence of Jesus to be healed.

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy spirit, whom He has given us." -- Romans 5:5

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Job 19:25-27

25 I know that my redeemer lives, 
   and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed, 
   yet in my flesh I will see God; 
27 I myself will see him 
   with my own eyes—I, and not another. 
   How my heart yearns within me!

Friday, January 7, 2011

January 6 - Another Monument

January 6 - Elyse has now been gone the same amount of time that she was with us. This is a difficult monument in the entire process.  In my eyes it's symbolic of the fact that time just keeps passing and that my memories of my little girl just become more and more distant.  Of course we do everything possible to keep those memories close, but time does indeed keep ticking away.

My beautiful wife wrote the most painful, honest and straight-forward account on her blog yesterday.  She really captured the heart of where we are in this entire process.  

Here are a couple more thoughts from me...
  1. This stinks! - There's no way around it.  This is the hardest, ugliest, most painful experience I've ever gone through.  No amount of comfort, encouragement, books, videos, sermons, etc. can remove the pain.
  2. God did not promise me an easy life! - The more I study scripture and the more I've experienced life this past year, the more I've learned the simple truth that LIFE IS HARD and TRIALS WILL COME!  We're called to endure, persevere, and to never give up.
  3. The consequences of giving up are much worse than the pain of endurance.  Giving up would be the most selfish thing I could ever do.  It would mean withdrawing from life and becoming a selfish jerk.  I have the most amazing wife and son whom I've been called to love and care for.  God has me in the position of husband and father to care for them.  I will not give up on God and I will not give up on them!
  4. God has met me in the pain! - No doubt.  Read back in my blog to the Spring and those stories of how God has faithfully reminded me of His presence continue to this day.
  5. There IS hope for the future. - In the process of not giving up I'm learning to know that as time passes, signs of God's redemption emerge. They're small at times, but they are there, and provide hope.
  6. I can't wait for heaven. - I've never longed for heaven as much as I do now.  It truly is a blessed hope that allows me to endure. I can't wait for that day where I get to meet my Savior and be reunited with my little girl. Maybe she'll show me around a bit. How will she be different? How will she be the same? So many questions answered in that ultimate day of redemption!
  7. God continues to use Elyse's life and death to draw people to Him. - I've taken just about every opportunity to share with groups the goodness, faithfulness and sovereignty of our Lord through this entire process.  In March, a group of students in the Joshua Wilderness Institute.  In April, a group of about 50 youth pastors.  In May, our Hume Staff in a Staff Chapel service. In October to Missionary Kids in Papua New Guinea.  And finally this past November, I got to speak to several hundred high school and junior high students at a Christian school. Every time I've spoken, it's been a privilege to share the truth of God's love in the midst of living in a painful world.
There's so much more I could share, but I'll save it for another time.  Suffice it to say that we continue to value the prayers of so many friends, and so many others that we've never even met. The Family of God has been exceptional through this entire process and we are eternally grateful. No matter what, HE IS ALWAYS GOOD!