Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Holidays are Upon Us

As Christmas approaches, so many have been super sensitive with us to the fact that this time of the year is just plain difficult. A few weeks ago we went to the Hume Family Thanksgiving Dinner. To state it simply, it was miserable. So many families, kids running around, just happy as can be.  And we were left with memories of being in that spot a year ago, holding Elyse and watching Peter run around and play with the other kids. Memories of the incredible joy that comes with the holiday season.

As we are in the midst of this year's holidays, it's a different kind of joy. Not a joy based on our circumstances, but a joy because of who Christ is and the grace and redemption that only He can bring. I don't know that I've ever been more dependent on Him than I am right now. I've always talked of dependence, but this year I'm living it out.  I desperately need Him.

Over the next 4 months, I'm asking those of you who have been faithfully praying for us to please consider the following dates and to continue to lift up our family.

  • The 15th of each month.  December will be 10 months since Elyse left us and it almost seems like yesterday. Time takes away the intensity of the pain, but the pain remains nonetheless.
  • December 25 - We have the most wonderful memories of Elyse's first Christmas last year and the wonder that was in her eyes the whole day. It's painful to know that day's coming and that we don't get to see it in person this year, or for any future year while we're on this earth.
  • The 27th of each month - She'd be 21 months old in December. We try to imagine what stage she'd be in, remembering how fun each of those stages was with Peter.)
  • January 6 - She will have been away from us the same amount of time she was with us... a painful mark to hit, but one that reminds us that this is indeed permanent.
  • February 15 - One year since she left us.
  • March 27 - Her 2nd Birthday
We know that so many have been faithful to carry us to the Lord, much as the paralytic's friends brought him to Jesus to be healed.  We're confident that the healing and redemption will come someday.  While maybe not on this earth, we know it will come.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

5 Months of Silence

It's been a quiet 5 months on this blog, not to imply that nothing's happening in the Carey Family, but to say that I've been having a tough time forming words to truly express my heart.


The big question... How are Cliff, April and Peter doing?  The short answer... okay! The long answer... this is a long, hard and winding road, filled with a lot of pot holes, and the occasional stretches of solid pavement.


We've adapted and come to accept our lives in this "new normal." It doesn't mean we like it, but we've accepted it. It's our cross to bear and one that we carry only with the strength and love of our Lord Jesus. We depend on Him for everything and are learning to thank Him for the most simple things, for the fact that He gives us shelter, food, family, friends, and the grace to endure through the most challenging times.  


In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul laments the thorn in his flesh and his continual pleading with the Lord to take it away. Three times he prayed. (300 times I've prayed.)  Yet Paul was willing to accept God's answer, "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.  I've studied and taught this passage for over 13 years and it's never been so personal as it is today. I've begged God to take this pain away over and over, yet He continually returns with His answer, "Cliff, my grace is sufficient for you."


A week ago I was in Papua New Guinea, having returned there for the fourth time with Hume to run camps for Missionary Kids. (See the pictures.) Several months ago the leader of the trip asked me to be the main speaker for the two camps. I accepted the invitation, scared more than I've ever been by a speaking engagement. First off, I haven't spoken to a group of teens in years. Second, what do I have to offer? Do I share our story of pain and grief? Will high school students even care? Will it impact them?


The message we took them was 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 - For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. It was through the grace of God that I was able to share the power of living our lives not for ourselves, but for our Lord Jesus Christ, and that it was only through dying to self that we could truly live for God. In that is also a message of brokenness that leads to an unmistakable dependence on our Lord.


On our final night in PNG, one of the high school students shared with me the following, "I know you were nervous about sharing the story of your daughter's death, and whether it would mean anything to us; but you need to know that it seriously affected me. I was in tears. Your story impacted my life."


All I can do is praise God and thank Him. His power is indeed made perfect through our weakness.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Glory Baby" by Watermark

I first heard this song at a Watermark concert in Bakersfield probably 12 years ago. I remember her telling the story behind it and being moved at how she could express the words so clearly.  I've probably heard the song a hundred times since; but it's sure taken on a new and personal meaning since.

Glory Baby

Glory Baby, You slipped away
As fast as we could say baby, baby
You were growing, what happened Dear,
You disappeared on us baby, baby

Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe 
Until we're home with you Until we're home with you

CHORUS
We miss you everyday, miss you in every way
But we know there's a day when we will hold you, we will hold you
And you'll kiss our tears away, when we're home to stay
*We can't wait for the day when we will see you, we will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you, until mom and dad can hold you*
You'll just have heaven before we do
You'll just have heaven before we do

Sweet little baby, it's hard to understand it
Cause we are hurting, we are hurting
But there is healing, and we know we're stronger people
Through the growing, and in knowing

All things work together for our good
And God works his purposes
Just like he said he would, just like he said he would

CHORUS
We miss you everyday, miss you in every way
But we know there's a day when we will hold you, we will hold you
And you'll kiss our tears away, when we're home to stay
*We can't wait for the day when we will see you, we will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you, until mom and dad can hold you*
You'll just have heaven before we do
You'll just have heaven before we do

BRIDGE
I can't imagine Heaven's lullabies 
And what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing
Heaven is your home 
And it's all you'll ever know, all you'll ever know

CHORUS
We miss you everyday, miss you in every way
But we know there's a day when we will hold you, we will hold you
And you'll kiss our tears away, when we're home to stay
*We can't wait for the day when we will see you, we will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you, until mom and dad can hold you*
You'll just have heaven before we do
You'll just have heaven before we do

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Encouragement along the way, even at Starbucks

This past Sunday, April and I headed to San Diego to complete some last-minute logistics for camp down there this summer. The drive took forever and was filled with all sorts of very unique circumstances.

Last week, Starbucks was having Happy Hour every day from 3 to 5. That meant half-priced Frappuccinos.  Of course we're going to stop for that. And that meant stopping at the bottom of the grapevine, also the 3rd busiest Starbucks in the world. Long lines, lost drinks... a crazy experience.  But while we were waiting, a girl walked up to April and said something like, "My name's Heather. I was in the Joshua program last year. I've been praying for your family. Can I pray for you two right now? There, at the 3rd busiest Starbucks in the world, a young lady took the time to follow the Spirit's leading, and took a moment to pray for us. Thank you God.

We drove back home Tuesday night. My friend Jay was driving separately and happened to stop at the Starbucks in Santa Clarita on Magic Mountain Parkway. There, the barista (Megan, I think) happened to recognize him from Hume. She went on to tell him that she'd been following my blog and to be sure to let me know that she'd been praying for us. Again, thank you God.

So there you go, as we move forward, we're reminded constantly that God's prompting His people to pray; and for that we're thankful. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thank You

As we approach three months this week, I feel compelled to write a note of thanksgiving.  This is written to the hundreds of you out there that have lifted April, Peter and me up for the last three months, three months where we knew we couldn't lift ourselves up.

In Mark 2, the story emerges of a paralytic who is unable to get himself to Jesus. Because of the large crowds and inability of his friends to help him into the room, they literally dig a hole in the ceiling above Jesus and lower him through so that he can receive Jesus' healing touch. For the past three months, you all have been those friends to us. You have taken us to Him, and have gone out of the way to put us in front of Him for healing. I don't even know how to say thank you. Many of you have simply prayed. Many have sent notes. Many have brought meals. Some have even sewn quilts and sent them to us. The list just goes on and on of the amazing things that people have done to initiate the healing process. It seems like Thank You just isn't enough. And yet that's what we have to offer. There's no way that we could ever physically repay all of you for how you've taken care of us in this hardest moment of our lives. So we simply say, "Thank you!"

I'm sure many are wondering how we're doing...  Well, as we move forward, we are experiencing God's grace and love in a way that we've never known before this. Three things about God and His nature have become so apparent to us through this time.  1) God is good. 2) God is faithful. 3) God is sovereign. It is these three things that have become a cornerstone to our understanding of the fact that He is in this.

The absolute truth is that we don't feel these things all the time. Believe me, there are many days when I wake up not feeling loved by God, not feeling comforted by Him. I sometimes feel hopeless, and even have moments of bitter despair. But the key word is "feeling." It comes and goes; but what I know to be true is the character of God, and His character has nothing whatsoever to do with my feelings. So today I can claim that I know He loves me; I know He cares for me; I know He is good; I know He is faithful; I know He is sovereign.  How cool is that!

April and I are in the hardest time in life that either of us have ever experienced; but we have an amazing hope and peace. Our marriage is strong and our faith is stronger. We lean to God to sustain us, because it's obvious we cannot sustain ourselves.

You all have been the most amazing friends through this... some of whom we don't even know. We know that we are far from out of the woods, but we also know that God is glorifying Himself through everything.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You will never know how God has used you to begin our healing. And thank you for sticking with us for the long haul.

We look forward to that day where we will be reunited with our little girl, who now sits with her Lord and is glorified. We look even more forward to that same day when we meet our Savior face to face and the hope that He will look to us and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Last Picture

I posted this picture previously, but a photographer friend recently helped brighten things up so we could see Elyse much better. For those of you who didn't see it before, this is the last picture we have of her before she went to be with Jesus.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Colorado Weekend

We just got back from a weekend out in Denver. We had planned this one since January. My Dad's 80th birthday was April 15, and pretty much the entire family (and many extended family) converged on Denver for the weekend to celebrate.

It was a great tribute to Dad and a great time to connect with so many in our family. On Saturday afternoon, we traveled up to Boulder to the cemetery where my Grandparents and Great Grandparents are buried in a family plot. It was cool to hear my Dad and his cousins share family history and to connect all the proverbial dots on the family tree. Saturday evening, about 30 of us converged on a local restaurant and had a great evening celebrating Dad. In true Carey family fashion, my Dad gave a speech and shared his heart of gratitude for his family, friends and country. I'm proud to call myself his son and am grateful for the influence he's had on me... especially teaching me work ethic, patriotism, and what it means to grant grace and true forgiveness.

A good portion of the rest of our time in Denver was spent with our dear friends the Babbs. They threw a party for us on Sunday night and invited some other great friends of ours that live in the area. It was just cool to connect with others that are in very similar life stages with us. We were reminded how blessed we are with great friends.

Monday morning... the Denver Zoo with Sarah, Monica and all the kids. Peter loved all the animals and getting to run around with all his friends. It's a cool zoo with tons to see. Definitely worth more than the small price you pay to get in... and we got free passes!

Monday afternoon turned out to be quite special. My sister, who lives in Denver, gave birth to her ninth child on Sunday night. Amy Katherine was born at 9:45pm, was 9 lbs 4 oz, 21" long and is beautiful! Of all nine births, this was the first time I got to see one of her newborns in the hospital. Was a blessing for April, Peter and I to spend some quality time with Cindy and Amy.

We finally made it back to Fresno last night around 11pm after a 45 minute delay due to no flight attendant and drunk guys in the exit row. Peter also made himself known to pretty much everyone on the plane for the first half of the flight. Now it can be confirmed... we are the family that people dread when they get on the plane. Oh well, I wouldn't trade it for anything!

All in all it was an okay trip. There were a couple of days that were pretty tough on us. Lots of wishing that our little girl was with us, and often people just not knowing what to say around us. At the same time, we were blessed by some people that really did know what to say, and they spoke words of life and grace into us.

As soon as I figure out the right words, I'm going to do a post on the things people say or don't say to people going through major grief. We have really learned a lot in the last two months about the process and how people want and need to be treated as they go through it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Elyse's Last Picture

Since we've been back from vacation, I've actually been working full days in the office, which has contributed to the demise of this blog. Eventually I'll try to figure out how to keep this up and keep my paycheck coming in. So keep coming back. I promise more to come.

Last night I was browsing through pictures on the computer. I do this every once in awhile to keep her memories in the front of my mind. This one would stop me in my tracks.
February 14, 2010 - 6:23pm

That evening, April had prepared the most amazing Valentine's Day dinner for Peter and me. She even brought out the fine china. Because she and her sister have a cooking blog, she had been taking lots of pictures of the meals she had been preparing lately, so the camera was always on the kitchen counter, ready to catch whatever was her latest creation.

We've browsed our pictures a hundred times since we lost Elyse, but hadn't discovered her in the background of this one. This is the last recorded memory we have of her... maybe 8-9 hours before she went to be with our Lord.

I'm holding her in the way that I most often did, sitting on my arm, upright, looking around and taking everything in. She always wanted to be apart of what was going on around her. This picture is even more special because many times I'd bring Elyse down from upstairs and we'd walk around that corner and see Peter and Mommy. She'd usually get a huge smile on her face when she saw them. In this case, we were just waiting for dinner: a couple minutes away from sitting down and sharing a normal evening together at home.

Oh how the next several hours would change our lives forever.

In my heart, I still hold my little girl like this. I always will. Tomorrow is 8 weeks. For some reason, the time just continues to pass. I've been finding, in this past week, some of the deepest pain I've felt since her Memorial Service. I suppose that God's answering my prayer and keeping her close to my heart. Perhaps I'm starting to process more and more of the whole thing. I just know that it continues to be a deep hurt. A day doesn't go by without some moment of intense grief.

So I continue to cling to our Lord, proclaim those things I know to be true about His love, sovereignty and faithfulness; and I move forward, knowing that I have a son who needs a Dad and a wife who needs a husband. Elyse is safely in her heavenly Father's arms, taking in everything in her new home. She has no pain. She has no hurts. She has no worries.

I sure can't wait to see that girl again.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Elyse's First Birthday Celebration that lasted 9 days

We are finally home from what has been our longest vacation in over 3 years. 9 whole days away from home. As we mourn the loss of Elyse, our hearts' desire is to honor and remember her on a regular basis, and to celebrate the time we had with her. We are striving to create special times as a family to be together, talk about her, cry with each other, and even try to have some fun in the whole process. Here's how we spent the last 9 days:

Thursday... Disneyland


We were way blessed by our friends John and Christie with complimentary park-hopper tickets. Sara (April's sister) and Eric brought Sam & Ben. The three boys had a blast together and loved just about every ride we took them on. Buzz, Small World, Tea Cups, Peter Pan, Pirates, and all the kids' rides at California Adventure. We ended up staying there for a whole 13 hours, and I don't think Peter hardly ever melted down. It was a phenomenal day, and a great time to connect as a family.

Friday... No Agenda
Friday morning we ran around the workout track at the park near my sister's house in Alta Loma, where we were staying. What a great morning to just hang out, get some exercise, and then be lazy. Yard House for lunch. Buy Cliff some new running shoes. Then off to watch all the Hume crew doing some filming for the summer video nearby. Highlight of the day... on the way home, we saw a guy riding his motorcycle down the street STANDING on his seat, with his arms out wide to balance him. Didn't have time to get the picture.

Saturday... Elyse's Birthday
I'll be writing a separate post on how we celebrated her birthday.

Sunday... Tom and Cindy's
Tom and Cindy live out in Valley Center, about a half hour beyond Escondido. For years they've been telling us that we need to come out and stay with them for a few days. And of course, we think... yeah, who would want to vacation in Valley Center?  Well... we do. This was the most amazing 2 days for us. They rolled out the red carpet. The Master Suite. Home-made meals. Age appropriate toys for Peter. Coffee on the patio overlooking the valley and all the orange orchards (it smelled like Soarin' Over California). The name of the game was rest, and rest we did. They were a great encouragement to us, and Cindy gave us a lot of insight into how Peter's probably dealing with the loss of Elyse. It was sad to leave after such quality time.

Monday... The Wild Animal Park
Last year we had annual passes and even spent Peter's 2nd birthday there. It was fun to go back and enjoy the day with Jay, Jen and Tanner. Peter loved feeding the Big Horn Sheep lots of leaves.


Peter and Tanner had a blast together seeing all the animals, and again it was a good day.

Tuesday... San Diego
Another day with very little agenda. Breakfast at Con Pane, our favorite bakery. Quality time with friends. We even drove the route of the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon that we're both running June 6. When we got back to Pt. Loma, Peter had a blast playing in the big tree right outside of the house. He was well entertained for over an hour.


Wednesday... Sea World
We were pleasantly surprised. The Shamu show was quality. Peter loved the Beluga Whale, the Dolphins, and the Sharks. We got our annual passes for the next two years so are planning quite a few trips back.


Thursday... The Long Trip Home
A long day through So Cal traffic, but quality time in the car with my family. The entire trip was exactly what we needed, but we are sure glad to be home. It's good to have Peter back in his normal environment. For April and I, we have two month remaining to train for this 13.1 mile race on June 6. (Are we crazy?)

As Good Friday comes to a close, and Easter Sunday approaches, I must admit that we have an entirely different perspective on Christ's redemptive work on the cross, and the pain the Father must have gone through to sacrifice His one and only Son. We are so grateful for His sacrifice, and even more grateful for the redemptive work of the Resurrection. We truly find ourselves longing for heaven more than ever before. We long for redemption and perfect peace, and of course we long to see our little girl in her glorified body. And we long to see Jesus face to face and hear Him say, "Well done!"

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

Vacation

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.

[chorus]

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

Peter

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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Vision of Heaven

In the midst of our deep hurt, April and I have found ourselves longing for heaven more and more, envisioning a time of reunion with Elyse, and just being in a place where there will be no more hurting, and perfection will be completed. The following is an excerpt of an email a close friend sent this week that painted a picture I had yet to see, but seems so appropriate:

I wanted to share with you an image I saw in my head during the service that I pray will bring you comfort and hope for your own journeys from here. Cliff, you mentioned of your prayers for Elyse at the time of her birth, and the mental leap to the time of her marriage. It was vivid, I'm sure, how you pictured that moment of future completion as you watched her walk down an aisle to meet and join her bridegroom. As you spoke, MY mind flashed an image of a joy I fully believe she will experience—only with tables turned—as she one day gets to watch and lead each of you down an aisle of beaming family and friends in heaven (that cloud of witnesses from Hebrews) to a Bridegroom of perfect love, perfect peace, perfect fullness. In the image of her final perfection, I believe Elyse will have the joy of handing you both over to Someone she's known for some time to be yours for eternity. It may not be just as you pictured, but it is a picture I believe will one day happen.

Elyse's Memorial Slideshow

This is the slide show from Elyse's memorial service. We miss our little girl so much, but is such a great way to remember her. Thanks so much Nathan Pearsey for making this possible.


video

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My little girl

This is how I was able to honor the memory of my daughter at her memorial service yesterday.

My precious Little Lady,

I’ll never forget the day your mom told me you were going to be. I was sitting in my office when an email came in with a picture of the positive pregnancy test. I cried immediately. You were already precious in my heart. For the next nine months, I’d wonder and imagine. We didn’t know whether you would be a boy or a girl. On the day you arrived I was so excited. There you were… my precious little girl. .” You had a name now… Elyse. I’d begin to call you my “Little Lady.” The moment I saw you, my heart began to melt. Standing in the hospital holding you, my mind immediately fast-forwarded 20 some years later where I’d be walking you down the aisle. I was now a Dad to a daughter. Thoughts of tea parties, dolls, crying shoulders, probably a little bit of drama, and holding a shotgun at the door when a teenage boy came to try to take you out. I’d protect you and care for you and be everything you needed from a dad. Knowing the influence that a daddy has on his daughter, I committed on that day that you’d always know that your daddy loved you. And you’d always know just how beautiful you are.

For the two nights we spent in the hospital, you showed me quickly you were different than your brother. You loved being held, and definitely didn’t like being left in the bassinette by yourself. So you’d sleep soundly right up against me. My love for you just grew more and more. It didn’t matter that I was spoiling you. I just loved holding my little girl.

As you started to grow and develop, I got to see your personality explode. You seemed to have a stronger will than your brother. You always seemed to know what you wanted. One of your trademark moves became how you kicked your feet. I’d hear a loud banging coming from your room, only to come in and discover you were simply kicking your feet up and down on the mattress. That patter would repeat itself on the changing table and anywhere else you had a chance to move those feet freely. I was lucky to ever be able to get those socks on you with how much you squirmed around.

When your brother was only about 6 weeks old, he started sleeping all night long every night. I suppose that I had high expectations for you, but those sure wouldn’t last long. Instead, you would figure out a way to wake up probably 6 out of 7 nights in a week. With your mommy being quite the heavy sleeper, and me being the opposite, I’m the one that got to hang out with you. Usually that meant a bottle would settle you down. So we’d hang out for about 20 or 30 minutes on the couch as I’d hold you, pray for you, and sometimes even sleep. Pretty soon you’d be right back to sleep. But sometimes you’d stay fussy. So we’d go downstairs and hang out. You were ready to party. I’d just lie on the floor and try to sleep with one eye open. You would pick out as many toys as possible to play with and usually the loud ones at that. As I look back, I now see that God gave you and me those precious moments in the middle of the nights together, moments the two of us never would have had if you had been a great sleeper. I’m so thankful to God for those ordained times. These are the memories of you I will treasure the rest of my life.

You’ve gone now to be with Jesus. You’re perfect and complete. But in my heart you will always be my little girl. People will ask me how many kids I have. The answer will always include you.

Yet this truth remains… From the day you came into this world, I prayed that God would have His way with your life. I’ve prayed that He would use you to glorify Him. I gave you to Him that day. And He now has you completely, and I know that He’s using you this day and for days to come. Enjoy God’s presence. I can’t wait to be there with you, to hold you again, and to know that His work is final and complete. Your Daddy loves you Lysie Lou.