To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


It's been an emotional few days for me. I can't put my finger on exactly why - too many reasons, I suppose. This would have been Harlynn's first Halloween. Brent and I go back and forth every year whether or not it's a holiday we'll participate in - but to know I would most likely have been choosing a little getup for Harlynn to wear stings. 

The cemetery will soon shorten their hours of being open and I'll only be able to visit during lunch hours or on the weekend. And that's only if the snow doesn't barricade my way. I feel as if I've taken time for granted in being able to visit Harlynn whenever I please. I won't be able to do that in a week or two.

Thanksgiving. Christmas. New year. All of it without our little girl. Sometimes I feel as if I've come to terms with it - that as much as I hate to, I can still accept it. Other times it feels like the wind has been knocked clean out of me. It isn't fair. It isn't real. It can't be. 

I keep going back to the moment in the hospital when I delivered her, and before I could see her - before I even opened my eyes from the last push - the doctor said, "She's beautiful. Looks just like she's sleeping." I opened my eyes and stared up at the hospital room lights. I heard no sound. It was all surreal. There is no way I could have just experienced what I did.  Every day I go back to that very moment. Every day I wish it were no more than a bad dream. And every day I'm reminded of the cold, hard truth. Harlynn isn't here anymore.

Haley has been asking a lot about her sister lately. The other night she led a prayer thanking God for Harlynn, for giving her to us, and for loving on her in Heaven. She's curious about when we'll go to Heaven. When we'll die. When we'll see Harlynn again. This morning her comment to me was, "Harlynn died way too soon." Don't I know it, kid. Don't I know it. As heartbreaking as it is to know she's still trying to process this as we are, I am so thankful - so glad - that Harlynn's name will always be spoken in our home. She will always be remembered by more than just her heartbroken mother. She will always be Haley's little sister. Always.

I think about all the other families I've come to know through this experience. All of the other families who will be missing a special someone at their holiday table. Who will be missing a tiny pair of feet in their family picture. Who will celebrate life and all of it's milestones, while remembering all too often the brokenness it brings. There are so many families. So many precious people I've come to know. So many.

Yet, even in the midst of my emotional moments, I still have hope. Hope our life will be filled with blessed moments. Hope our life will encourage the broken hearts of families like ours. Hope we'll find encouragement when we need it. Hope we'll not have to wait long for eternity. Hope that, as Esther was, we have been placed here "for such a time as this."  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Baby Rebecca

It was early September. I was driving around the cemetery, watching the deer and turkeys, when I drove by the markers. I'd driven by them several times before, but I felt I needed to get out and see who they were for. They're older markers - anyone can tell at first glance. As I drove closer to them, I parked and got out. I walked around and caught my breath in my throat. They were site markers of infants....from over 100 years ago.

The first one I came upon had something inscribed in the top - but with the cloud cover, it was very hard to make out. I squinted and bobbed and weaved and finally made out the name: Rebecca. This baby was born on July 7 1900 and died July 8 1900. Baby Rebecca. My eyes welled up - she had a name. I was so grateful her parents named her. Infant death is so taboo - and even more so from eras gone by - there are too many babies without a name. 

"Oh baby Rebecca - I pray your parents are holding you in eternity now!"  I rested my hand on her headstone for quite some time. I moved to the next one. "Infant daughter of George and Georgia". 1913. No name. Another baby with no name. Given the names of her parents, I affectionately named her "Georgina". It seemed only fitting.  Next headstone. Baby Orin Phillip. 

My heart ached a brand new ache - feeling a bond with people gone long before me, knowing they also had to live their lives without their babies. I will never know them here on earth, but I feel like I do. 

That visit brought a new routine to my visits to the cemetery. I go spend time with Harlynn. I visit the babies nearby her. Then, I drive around and park near Baby Rebecca. I visit the three stones in a row. I don't know why I'm drawn to them. I wonder when the last time anyone visited them was. Has it been years? Decades? Ever? I don't know their stories. I don't need to know their stories. I know they died far too soon. I know the heartache that was felt as a result. And I know they've been in heaven for over 100 years. 100 years. Can you imagine?

Tonight, Brent and I took flowers to Harlynn's site. It's the first nice fall day of the week, and it isn't pouring rain. I'm sure the deer will feast upon them, but for the time we were there, they were beautiful against her new site marker. I shed some tears, and walked back to the van. I started to ask Brent if he would drive me over to the other area and he said, "I intended to."  He knows me. He knows I need to stop there.

I got out, I stopped by Baby Rebecca. I cried. I don't know why. Sometimes I can't help it. I hope Harlynn has met her. I told Brent about my naming baby Georgina. I whispered to little Orin. I walked, slowly, back to our van.

I long for my innocence. I long for my naivety. Back when I didn't know babies could die. Back when I didn't know it possible for a baby not to survive. Back when the worst thing that ever happened to me was having to wait 30 days before bringing my daughter Haley home from the NICU. Back when my heart was scarred, but still whole. 

Now, I know too much. I know too many truths. I know too much heartache.

My cemetery routine is different than it first was. I've adopted more dead babies, as morbid as that may sound. But I pray if this world keeps on spinning for years after I'm gone, someone will come show Harlynn love this side of heaven. Just as I'm showing to Baby Rebecca, and those nearby her.

Next: 10.26.13

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

5 Lies Believers Believe

In grieving, and in believing in Christ, I often hear "reasons" for why bad things happen. Whether it's from someone trying to make sense of someone else's pain, or someone grasping at straws for how they could be expected to endure their own tragedy, everyone wants an answer. And rightly so. We, as humans, appreciate logic and reason and therefore want to implement them especially in explanations of why we're suffering. There are some I've heard often enough, however, that I feel compelled to call out as false. If you're a believer, and if you're believing these lies, stop. And certainly, stop offering them up to others. Bear with me, and be prepared to disagree with me, I'm sure. Here we go.

1. My loved one died so young because God saved them from a worse fate later on in life.
No. No, no, no. Try telling that to the paraplegic who is the sole survivor of a horrible vehicle accident. God does not save us by killing us. If this were true, he would have saved me long ago from this broken heart. But no, here I am, living through the death of my daughter. Accidents are accidents, diseases fall upon the unsuspecting, and evil exists in our world and all of these certainly end up taking the lives of our loved ones - but not because we weren't saved from them by dying sooner, and not because we're being saved from something far worse. God sent his son to die ONE death as redemption of sin, to save us and bring us in to eternal life with Him. He doesn't take us on a whim to spare us from future suffering. "I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33

2. God needed another angel.
The God I serve is almighty, all powerful, and omnipresent. He doesn't need anything. He certainly didn't need my baby more than I did. His angels are powerful. His angels are purposeful. His angels are doing what they're supposed to be. My precious infant daughter wasn't called up to command the angel army. And she certainly didn't die because God somehow ended up short-staffed and suddenly panicked in trying to find souls to build his robust heavenly army. I remember very distinctly, and very vividly, how I felt the Lord grieving with us. Crying alongside us. I don't think that would have been the case, had he taken her because he "needed" to.

3. It's because I did ____ or didn't do _____ once upon a time.
Stop blaming yourself. Right now. Stop it. You could have memorized the Bible. You could have run over a puppy when you were a teenager. None of those events, whether good or bad, would have changed this outcome. Our punishment will come when we choose to separate ourselves from God, and our name is not found in the book of life. Not because we didn't cross this t or dot this i or give a dollar to a homeless person on our way to work. Stop blaming yourself. There are people who do horrible things and pay no consequences. There are people who do everything right and suffer immensely. We aren't saved, or punished, by our deeds.

4. It was God's will.
Which part? For my daughter to die? For my family to suffer? For my heart to be broken every day? For my three year old to not understand why her baby sister will never play with her? He willed this?  I don't know about you, but I worship a just, loving, jealous God. He wouldn't will this on me. He didn't will this on me. Or you. Or anyone. God has a plan, absolutely. But just because something happened in our lives, does not mean He ordained it.

5. Because I need to learn something.
And you will. You absolutely will. But is that the reason this happened to begin with? Did Harlynn die because I needed to learn how to be compassionate? Because I needed to learn how to not cry in front of other people? Because I needed to learn about stillbirth? The reason my daughter died was strictly for educational purposes?  Again - No. No, no, no.

Okay, Val - so if these are "lies" - then what? What am I supposed to believe? What is the reason for all of this?

The answer is simple. Maybe too simple. And maybe not one we can, or want to, accept.  But it's the truth. We live in a fallen world. Once upon a time, Satan convinced people he knew better than their creator. And with sin, he took foot in this earth. He prowls around and picks us off, one by one. Things happen that cause us to doubt, question, and examine the roots of our faith. And Satan enjoys and soaks up every minute of it. Death is horrible. It's unfair. It's heartbreaking. When we're not the ones who die

But take heart! God has overcome the world. He has overcome the evil. The heartache. The devil. And our suffering is not in vain. No sir. Our suffering, or how we rely on God in it, is a direct testimony to His power and all He has in store for us. And what's in store for Satan....well....he'll burn in hell for his choices.

Next: Baby Rebecca
Prev: Brent Ryan