Friday, March 26, 2010

Saturday's Almost Here

April did a great job in her blog today of sharing what's on our heart as we head into Elyse's birthday tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Elyse's Birthday - Saturday

We're in Southern California for several days to celebrate Elyse's 1st birthday. Tomorrow (Thursday) we'll be at Disneyland all day. We're excited to get away and spend a day at the "happiest place on earth," although we all know that in reality, Elyse is actually at the happiest place in all creation.

Saturday, for Elyse's birthday, we're starting a tradition. At 1:06pm, the time that Elyse was born a year ago, we'll be releasing balloons in her honor. April, Peter and I will be in San Diego and will have a picnic lunch, a time together to honor her, and then we'll release our balloons. We're inviting anyone who wants to join us, wherever they are, to do the same in honor of Elyse.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Nine days of vacation starts Wednesday.  Heading south to L.A. Staying with my sister. Disneyland Thursday. Elyse's birthday Saturday. San Diego. Hopefully a full report when we get back.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A look back at Elyse's Memorial Service

I've wanted to post this one for a little while, but in the midst of life's craziness, keep forgetting. So here ya go!

Saturday, February 20, 2010, was a beautiful day, one that will be impressed in my memory for as long as I retain memories. Elyse's Graveside and Memorial Services were some of the most special moments ever. We celebrated the short life on earth of our little girl, but more importantly, the eternal life she now experiences.

Jen Turner is a great friend of ours from the old days at Hume, and was there for both events. She's now a professional photographer, and gave us the most beautiful gift of chronicling that day in pictures. See them here on her website.

Back in August, Jen had come up to Hume  and photographed our family. You can see some of those photos in Elyse's Slide Show.

Much thanks to our dear friend, and consider this a strong recommendation if you're looking for a great photographer.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why I Blog

Before Elyse went to live with our Lord, I managed to blog maybe once a month, if I was lucky. Obviously it's been a lot more since then. There are several reasons I've taken up this new discipline.

Many people have commented that it must be so therapeutic for me. I suppose there's some truth to that. It allows me to put thoughts out there that sometimes I'm not able to communicate verbally. So yes, it's been a help and has served as somewhat of a journal for me. But at this point in the journey, it's not the main reason.

The main reason is somewhat selfish and spiritual, all in one. I share our journey with all of you out there because I want you to stay involved. I want you to know what's happening in our lives so that you can pray more accurately. I truly believe that God listens to His peoples' prayers, and believe those prayers are helping sustain us through everything.  The more I share, the more you are reminded of what's going on, and hopefully it reminds you to pray for us.

Finally, I blog this whole thing because I want people to see God glorified in and through our story. I want to be an encouragement and a resource for others in the future that may experience this same loss. I want to be able to look back and see where we came from and be able to see what God has done through it all, and to see how He has changed us. I want others to know that in the midst of the darkest trials that God always remains faithful.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Tough Day

When days go well, you know that there may be tough ones in the shadows. That was the case with today. From early on it was obvious it would be a tough day.

Shortly after Peter woke up, he took my hand and guided me upstairs. He took me into Elyse's room, moved a few things out of his way, and climbed up on the edge of her crib to look in; just like he used to do after nap time to check if she was awake yet. He asked where she was and then proceeded to point our her blanket and pillow. Needless to say, I lost it.

Please understand that this was not a bad moment. It was a hard moment. I'm so grateful that Peter has special memories of his sister, and I'm grateful that he talks about her. It's just hard. And of course that set the mood for the day. Several more times I'd think through the last month and sadness would come upon me. I'd think about my precious little girl, and I'd just miss her. It was one of those days where a lump would rest at the bottom of my throat all day long.

I'm okay with these kinds of days, but they are a challenge.

Prayer requests for today:

  • March 27 is only a week away. Please pray for us as her first birthday approaches. We will celebrate her life, but we will hurt.
  • I'm starting a journal of all my memories of Elyse. Please pray that God will bring to my mind these precious memories, so that we can treasure them and pass them on to Peter and the other siblings to come.
  • Please pray for our time in the Word. We treasure the time, but sometimes it's hard to know exactly where to go.
  • We are not far away from getting the official cause of death from the coroner. Please pray for how we will disseminate this information.
  • We praise God for how He has drawn April and me closer to each other.
  • We praise God for the overall peace He's given us.
  • We praise God for the friends He's placed beside us, especially during some of the darker moments.
  • We praise God for how He continues to restore Peter.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Good Day

It's hard to quantify what constitutes a good day, but compared to many in the last month, today was a good day. Maybe it was the great weather. Maybe it was great friends that called or came by. Maybe it was getting outside to walk, and then coming home to clear snow off the deck. (Bring on the Spring!)

I think it was simply our Lord reflecting His good love on us today in a way that was more obvious than most days. Don't mistake it. There were tears. There was hurt. We missed her. But we also laughed and had a great time connecting with some of our amazing friends. We laughed and enjoyed time playing with Peter. Our great friend Jayne made us "Boeuf Bourguignon" out of Julia Childs' cook book and joined us for dinner. Our dear friends Lucas and Emily brought us the coolest framed verse of Lamentations 3:21-23 to put on our wall. (This passage has sustained us in some of the hardest times in the last month.) I got to have a great conversation with Rich Baker this morning, talking about everything God's doing through Elyse's life and death. My friend Joel came over to just check in on me and be sure I knew that he cared.

Yeah, God's favor on us was obvious today.

On a very sad note, we read a comment on my previous blog post from a Mom that lost her 11 month old son just two weeks ago. We hurt with and for them. This is a long, hard, and painful road.

One friend today asked specifically how to pray.  Since I haven't posted prayer requests lately, I thought it would be good to update our prayer list:

  • Please pray that we don't miss anything God is doing. Through this whole process, God has laid the conviction on both of us that we desire to be changed people, and that no part of Elyse's death would be in vain.
  • Please pray for Peter's grief and sorrow. We know he is grieving the loss, but also realize he doesn't know how to express it well. We talk to him often about her, and he demands to see her slide show several times a day. The long-term desire is that he'd carry her with him as his little sister for his entire life and that everlasting memories would be impressed on his heart.
  • Please pray for us as we head into Elyse's first birthday on Saturday, March 27. It will be a tough day, but we do want to celebrate our little girl.
  • Please pray for both of our families. It is so hard on them as well, and is difficult that we aren't able to be there for them as much as we'd like to throughout all of this.
There are many more requests, but I'll leave those for a later day. In the meantime, I again invite you to be sensitive to the Spirit's leading and pray for us as our Lord lays it on your hearts.

Thank you for standing in the gap for us through everything. We are more blessed than we'll ever know.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A New Normal

Tomorrow is one month. One month ago everything that we knew as normal was completely removed. All of our expectations for our normal family were changed forever. In just 12 days, we would be throwing her first birthday party. We'd be wondering how soon it would be that she'd start "cruising." And walking wouldn't be far after. It all changed one month ago.

A month into this I'm feeling numb. The initial shock has worn off. Most people around us have returned to their normal world; and we struggle to figure out what this new normal looks like.

There is so much that has changed in our day to day lives. One of the hardest things is how "easy" the day to day operation of the household is. Fewer diapers. No middle of the night bottle. Less food to prepare. No diaper bag to get ready when we go down the hill. Less laundry to do. A single stroller to push on walks. Less mess in the house. A quicker bath in the evening. Less work. It's easy. And I hate it.

I miss the 3am cries. I miss the diaper changes. I miss how long it took us to get out the door to go down the hill. I miss how complicated getting her dressed was compared to her brother. I miss it all, and would take it all back in a heart beat.

To those reading this with young children, please don't miss the amazing moments God gives you with your children. They may seem burdensome. They may seem repetitive. They may even seem counter-productive. But those are moments to treasure, and you never get them back.

So here we are in the new normal. We didn't choose it, but we must head down this path. In the new normal I find a desperate need for God each and every day. I cling to His new mercies every morning. In the new normal I treasure even the mundane moments with my son. In the new normal I value my Godly wife and her unswerving commitment. I am emptied of so much of who I was a month ago.

Our prayer for ourselves this day is that we don't miss a single thing God is doing in our hearts. We don't want to look back in three years and realize we're still the same people. We want this to have transformed us to the innermost parts in such a way that God would truly glorify Himself through us and our family.

We value your prayers and are so thankful for those in our lives that are sticking with us for the long haul. While a month may seem like a long time, to us it's just the beginning of a long and hard journey. April did a great job in her blog post today of identifying many elements of our grief, and I'd encourage you to read it to understand how you can help stick with us through this.

As an endnote, for those of you who have been praying for Peter, he is doing so much better physically. His cough is almost completely gone, as well as the cold that accompanied it. He continues to ask to see pictures of "Sissy" and obviously misses her. We're happy for this, since we prayed from the beginning that he and Elyse would have a very special relationship. We are blessed that he treasures her, and pray that he would always treasure her memories in his heart.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beautiful Girl

This is a tribute to my little girl. She would wake up in the middle of the night probably 6 out of 7 nights a week. Many of those nights, I got to be the one to hold her, give her a bottle, and eventually get her back to sleep. They are precious nights in my memory. This song was the final one in the slide show at Elyse's Memorial Service and pretty much says it all. I often find myself waking up in the middle of the night singing this in my head.

Beautiful Girl - Andrew Peterson

I've got your bottle,
and I've got you swaddled
and you're too loud to ignore.

Your mamma is sleeping,
the angels are keeping,
so cry no more.

Hey beautiful girl,
Daddy loves you, he loves you,
most beautiful girl in
in the whole wide world.

The stars are all shining,
the birds are reclining,
the squirrels are all nestled down,
and the trees in the forest
are joining the chorus
and swaying to the sound.


I know that moons rise
and times flies
and sweet little girls get older,
and then when your tooth aches,
or your heart breaks,
will you still cry on my shoulder?

Hey, beautiful girl,
Daddy loves you, he loves you,
most beautiful girl
in the whole wide world.

I miss those nights.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How are you?

Yesterday was three weeks. So how are we doing? The question has been asked of us so many times, from the drive thru at In-n-Out and Starbucks, to people we haven't seen in awhile, to our close friends. Some ask wanting to know, and some just ask out of habit or obligation. I've always made it a point to be honest in answering this question, which can throw some off. I felt sorry for my Life Insurance agent at AAA yesterday when he asked the question out of a genuine care for a brother in Christ. The answer was one he was not expecting.

So how are we? That depends on what moment it is and what thoughts and memories are coming to mind.

In the big picture of everything, we are doing OK. God is so good and so faithful and continues to carry us as we can't carry ourselves. I spoke with a mentor the other day who told me (as a professional psychologist looking from the outside in) that we're doing pretty well, all things considered. Others have echoed the same sentiment, almost in amazement. Some have been inspired by our endurance, others by our overwhelming sense of peace in the trial. Some have told us that, through the rumor mill, they've heard that we're doing just fine.

To be truthful, we're not fine. We may have peace, and we may understand God's love and faithfulness in a whole new way, but we're not fine. We hurt, and hurt deeply. It's the feeling of almost always having a lump at the bottom of your throat. It's the feeling in the deepest depth that you have been completely emptied, and not emptied slowly, but having something in the deepest depth completely ripped out of you. It's brokenness, and it hurts.

I just came down stairs from standing over Elyse's crib in tears. I picture her there and I just miss her so much. I can't be in her room more than a minute without breaking down. Everywhere we go we're haunted by the desire to have her there with us. And we frequently return to the question, "What could we have done differently?" No, we're not fine.

But alas, we are forced to return to the truth. The truth is that we serve an almighty God that loves and cares for us deeply. He is good. He is faithful. He is sovereign. And He is Lord. His mercies are new every morning. We cling to these truths, and repeat them often. In the midst of despair, we are learning to sing praises, quote scripture, and remind each other of the truth that we know in our minds, even when we don't believe it in our emotions.

So how do we want you to respond to us? Many people are obviously nervous in approaching us, and uncomfortable at best in making conversation. We get that. We want you to know that we understand. This is strange territory for all of us. But please know that we love to talk about our little girl. We miss her so very much, but we love to talk about her and remember her. This is healthy. As I've said before, we don't have any desire to "move on" but know we are to "move forward." As we do that, we cling to the most amazing memories that we have of Elyse; and we treasure it when others share their memories of her. Sometimes we're brought to tears, sometimes laughter, but we love the memories.

For those of you not in our daily world, I can't even begin to tell you how much your prayers, cards, scripture, calls and so much more have meant to us. Please don't forget. Please don't forget to pray for the three of us, as well as our extended family and friends. Please don't forget to drop us a note every once in awhile reminding us of truth. Please don't forget our little girl. We aren't going to... ever.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Romans 8:1-2

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blessed Be Your Name

We sang this at Elyse's Memorial and it will forever remind me of the truth of who God is and how I am to respond to Him.

Blessed Be Your Name - by Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Friday, March 5, 2010


Today, three different times, Peter asked, "Where's sissy?"

Before Elyse was born, we asked the Lord to create a very special bond between Peter and her. That bond was definitely present in her 10 1/2 months with us. In her death, we've both been praying that God would give Peter special memories of her that would last his lifetime, memories that would be impossible without God's intervention. I believe that God is granting a small answer to our prayers.

Thank you all for praying for him. He's been sick since before Elyse died, and just continues to hang onto it with a lingering cough that is almost haunting to us. We took him to the doctor today and began him on some antibiotics for a possible sinus infection. Hearing him cough in his sleep, tonight I'm begging God to take this illness away from him. I can't even begin to explain how difficult it is to listen to those sounds, and again, am just begging God to heal him. Someday I'll come to a point of being able to explain this in this forum, but for now I just ask you all to please pray for my son.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to Pray

Many have asked how they can be praying for us through this time. Most often the answer is that we have no clue and just invite the Spirit to lead you in prayer for us. But here are a few specific areas that we think would be helpful:

  • Please pray for Peter. He is not the boy that he was 3 weeks ago. We know he's gone through a tough time and is not able to form the words to express his feelings. He also had 2 straight weeks with hardly any structure, probably not the best food fed to him, and erratic bed times. We need wisdom on how to help him through this.
  • Please pray for our times away from home. We've kind of figured out how to function at home, but it gets quite hard when we're out and about as a family. We go places where we used to go with her, and we feel the emptiness of her not being with us. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill this void.
  • Please pray for our friends and family that held us up through everything. We are watching several of our friends experience some pretty significant challenges and trials right now. God has used them to carry us so strongly through this, and we pray for them to be carried in the same way.
  • Please pray for Hume. This has rocked this entire community, and we are asking the Lord to bind us together as a unified family.
  • Please allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in your prayers. I know for some of you this seems like hocus pocus, but I know in my heart, and from scripture, that the Spirit leads us when we don't know what to pray, and does so in accordance with God's will.
Thank you all for your prayers. I hear from people daily that tell us of specific areas where they're praying, and we're able to turn around and let them know that it was exactly something that we needed for that day or moment. God is truly working in and through this. Please don't miss an opportunity to be a part of what He's doing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Calm in the Storm

Waves. The analogy has already been given to us several times. Sorrow and hurt will come and go like the crashing waves. We have definitely felt that one. When we got back into Fresno from Monterey, we felt like a major wave of sorrow had just crashed. We were ready for some calm. April's prayer in Monterey on Saturday night was a simple request, "God, could you just show me a glimpse of what you're doing through this?"

Since we wouldn't make it back to Hume in time for church, we decided to attend the 5pm service at The Well. (This is the same place where Elyse's Memorial Service was just a week earlier.) We felt the need to go to church, get some good teaching, and just be around the Body of Christ. Our great friends Jay and Jen would save us seats in the back, as we had to make a quick In-n-Out stop on the way due to near starvation. It was tough to go back to the room that was filled with so much love and support the previous weekend. It was tough to remember the slideshow and the tears, and everything about it, but it was a good tough. We knew that we needed to start going places that had memories of Elyse, and that it was OK to do that. It was OK to move forward. (I say "move forward," not "move on.")

Brad taught from Song of Solomon and Ephesians 6. What would be painted through the sermon was the picture of a good marriage, where the man and woman were living in a right relationship with God and each other, with Christ as the Head, with the man stepping up as the spiritual leader and the woman loving and supporting him in that role. (We'd later laugh about the young lady sitting in front of us that couldn't help but squirm throughout the entire section on Ephesians 6. April wanted to just put her hand on her shoulder and let the poor girl know that it would be OK.) (We'd also laugh about the one behind us that worshiped with her whole heart and voice. Let's just say that Simon Cowell would have had a field day with her.)

But as the sermon developed, Brad taught on what a spiritual leader in the husband looked like, and what the supportive wife looked like. Internally, April and I were both comparing each other to those lists. Later, as we headed home, we began to share what we'd learned, and with joy recounted how thankful we are for each other, for the health of our marriage right now, and for the unity and like-mindedness that we have, especially during this most difficult time in our lives.

As we continued our trip home, we started to talk through the attributes of God that are most apparent to us right now. His goodness. His sovereignty. His faithfulness. We love His faithfulness and cling to it constantly. In the midst of all of this, we are so comforted by the fact that we worship a faithful God that does not give up on us. No, we aren't OK. No, we aren't always at perfect peace. No, we aren't always faithful. But He is!

What an amazing 2 hours of conversation we had coming home Sunday night. We hurt. We mourn. We agonize. But we have a strong marriage and we serve a good and faithful God.

So remember the glimpse April prayed for? On Monday afternoon I'd get a call from a dear friend just letting us know some very specific ways God's been working through our story. I told April all the details, and she just looked at me and said, "A Glimpse!" Praise God for the glimpse!

Monday, March 1, 2010

How We're Doing - What God's Doing

I've been silent for a few days 'cause we took the weekend and got off the hill. Friday night was spent with April's family, eating some great Mexican food and playing Wii games with all the cousins, etc. Then Saturday/Sunday was spent in Monterey with April's sister and fam. We did the Aquarium, Buba Gumps, a little local chowder joint, Denis the Menace Park, and much more.

The time with the family on Friday night was a challenge. It was our first time back with all of them since after Elyse's memorial service and it was hard to be there with the entire family and not have Elyse. It was super hard to try to play games and have fun, just knowing how we felt in the depths of our hearts. She just should have been with us. She should have been sitting in the high chair. She should have been crawling around on the floor. She should have been crying when I tried to put her to bed with all the other noise in the house. But she wasn't, and we had to move forward, and it was hard. I think we learned through it that there are going to be some challenges ahead as to what it looks like when the whole family gets together. We want to be able to cry together and focus on the memories of our little girl, but of course we know we can't dwell and that it's OK to have fun, laugh and create new memories. It's just all so fresh.

Our trip to Monterey was so bittersweet. A youth pastor in town graciously hooked us up at the InterContinental Clement. This is a 4-5 Star Hotel right on Cannery Row and it's simply amazing. Ocean view. Huge room. All the amenities that make you feel like you make way more money that you do. We arrived to check in 4 hours early. When the bellman heard our room number, he said, "You're the Carey's. I've been expecting you! (Turns out he grew up with the YP, and was the one that arranged the crazy deal we got on the hotel.) He took the next 15 minutes to take the most personal care possible of us. Did we have Aquarium tickets? What, no? OK, here's my pass. Use it. Here's an envelope that was delivered for you. In it, a $40 certificate for breakfast at First Awakenings, from "your family in Christ." At that point, on Facebook, I posted, "Overwhelmed by the kindness of God's people." It truly was overwhelming to see the body of Christ reaching out to us in such a difficult time.

Next stop was the Aquarium. Wow, we weren't ready for this. People everywhere. Two hours of chaos. Lots of babies Elyse's age. Yeah, it was tough for April and me. We were constantly holding on to Peter and he was constantly wanting to run here and there with his cousins to see things. We were like the paranoid parents that couldn't let their kid out of their sight. Challenging time. But we'd get some naps later and would spend some quality time with April's sister Sara and her husband Eric and their two boys. They'd simply let us rest when we needed to, and get out when we needed to, talk when we needed to, take Peter when we needed time alone. It ended well, but again it was hard. We just weren't ready to start doing life things without Elyse. But we knew we needed to. And that's where we are... moving forward without moving on.

More to come on what God did in our hearts Sunday night.