It snowed here today…but I actually took these photos before Christmas. I am not a huge fan of winter. A little winter is okay. Being snowed in a few days is always fun. But it doesn’t take very long before I am longing for warmer days. Longing for a change.

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There is so much joy and beauty that can be found in these winter days that aren’t really my favorite. Just look at the faces of those sweet boys! It is so easy for me to just dwell on all the things I don’t like about it. We’ve been walking through some really tough days as a family recently. Days that we started to question God’s plan. Days that the waiting was long and hard. And days that we had to continue to choose to trust God even when we were scared. We are coming out of this “winter” season in our family and I am so ready for some change…even just a little normalcy. But I don’t want to close the door on these days without remembering the joy and beauty that God has graciously weaved throughout. God has been doing a work in my family this year and I am so thankful for that. I love that we serve a God who takes the really hard things in our lives and redeems them. And I can’t wait to share with you what He has been teaching me the past few months…if I ever find time to write them in a blog post.;)

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  • February 23, 2015 - 9:40 am

    Mary Ann - I love the photos of those adorable faces. Kids and snow just go together, don’t they?? We’ve been lucky in Utah this winter. We had a white Christmas and a week of extremely cold temps afterward. But then…well, we’ve had record warm days since the first of the year. There is a little storm that came through over the weekend and a few more little storms on the way. The mountains just 15 minutes away from Salt Lake City have plenty of snow for skiing/snowboarding, all the while we only got rain in the valley. Perfect winter in my book. I’m so sorry you’ve had some difficulties in your life recently. I hope things will right themselves and you will find answers to your questions or problems. I’ve been dealing with a major health issue in my life for the past 5 months. The worst is over and hopefully I will live a long and productive life. I am living proof that prayers will bring peace, take away the fear and leave only comfort. I will pray for you and your family my young friend. Take care.ReplyCancel

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  • February 23, 2015 - 12:03 pm

    andrea - we’ve been praying for your family!ReplyCancel

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  • February 23, 2015 - 12:42 pm

    Debbie H. - Hi Jess, Will be praying for you my friend! We live in CO and I feel the same about winter. A little snow is OK, but I like it best when I know it’s on the way OUT and we can enjoy warmer days again! Love seeing your pictures and will look forward to an update soon! Tough times have a way of moving us closer to God if we let them, and that’s always a GOOD thing, even though there are days when we wonder IF we will survive. My family has been through some unsettling time recently with a move to another home. My kids are all adopted and this is the only home they remember, so it’s been difficult. We are really in the THICK of things now, needing to be all moved in just a week, and CO weather is not cooperating…SNOW here too! (((HUGS))) LOVE and PRAYERS for all of you today and everyday.ReplyCancel

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  • February 23, 2015 - 8:55 pm

    Lea - Jess, what a precious post that shows your heart for God. Yes, God can use the winter days of our lives for our good and His glory. I can’t wait to hear more. Blessings to you!ReplyCancel

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So much has happened this past month I hardly know where to begin. So I will start with today.

February 8, 2015.

Cora’s heaven day.

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While everyone was taking afternoon naps, Levi and I did some crafting for Cora’s heaven day.

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It has been six years since we said goodbye to my sweet Cora.

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I was so thankful for this time to talk to Levi about his sissy. He is a pretty great crafting partner. And he loves to talk about his sister. He told me we should pick lots of pink fabric for Cora. I loved that. He also picked these rocks up on the beach in California and brought them home so we could take them to Cora’s stone today.

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We thought they turned out pretty great. Then Levi ran upstairs and woke everyone up. He was so excited to walk to Cora’s stone. He loves doing things for his sister, but he was also going to get to ride his bike to the cemetery for the first time. It was a big deal.

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It had been awhile since we had visited the cemetery. It was Jake’s first time to come with us too. The boys showed him the ropes.

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They set out all the heart rocks and Levi did a little jumping…until his dad told him to stop. Good thing he was wearing a helmet.

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I wonder if they will still walk to the cemetery with me when they are teenagers.

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Six years. We have missed Cora like crazy every day since. The tears still come and, just like every year, we wonder what to do with ourselves on the day. But we grieve with hope. And we rejoice that our baby girl is with Jesus…that we serve a God who has conquered sin and death! Tonight as we walked to Cora’s stone we remembered how God has redeemed Cora’s death for His glory. And we prayed that He would continue to make His name known through our family in the years ahead. Who knew that six years later we’d be sitting at Cora’s stone with three boys…two of them who couldn’t stop wrestling?! It’s been quite the week and I can’t help but be reminded of God’s faithfulness through it all.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19-24

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  • February 9, 2015 - 7:11 am

    Michelle from Australia - Love and hugs from this side of the planet. Jess, thank you for sharing xxReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 9:54 am

    Toni :0) - I said a special prayer for your sweet Cora yesterday while in church. It’s hard for me to comprehend that it’s been six years, been following along for a long time and can’t believe that much time has passed. So sweet to see those three boys gathered around her stone. Blessings and continued prayers to you all. xoxoReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 10:10 am

    Mary Ann - What a lovely post in honor of your beautiful angel Cora. The stones are so pretty. I think Cora knows her brothers and parents will never forget her. I love the photo of Levi’s chubby little hands working on the rocks. My little grandson is 4. He likes going to the cemetery where my parents and husband is buried. There are geese there and we can see clear across the Salt Lake Valley where we are surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is a sacred and holy place to me. I talk to Braxton about his Grandpa Rich and how much Grandpa probably wishes he would have met Braxton….but we know that the Lord takes care of our loved ones on the other side. We also know that on that perfect day…we will all be together again. Bless you my young friend. Although I have never met you, I adore your family and always smile and find hope in your posts and photos. Thank you.ReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 10:41 am

    Janet Dreher - Jess, I am absolutely positive your precious boys will walk with Joel and you to Cora’s grave when they are teenagers. She is so special to them, and you are raising them in such a way as to always think of her and love her. I am sending a hug your way and want to say again how beautiful your boys are.
    JanetReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 10:48 am

    Emily - I was first on your blog 6 years ago reading your family story right before little Cora went to heaven. I have been reading ever since. I enjoy following a long with your family and truly admire your family’s love for Jesus! :)ReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 12:33 pm

    Kimberlee Jost - I am guessing when your boys are teenagers (or before) you will find them wandering over there on their own to spend time there. And maybe once in awhile with you too. ;)ReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 12:56 pm

    Bethe @ Texas Lovely - What a beautiful tribute to sweet Cora. My heart breaks for your loss, even all these years later, but I love that verse. His mercies are new every morning – great is His faithfulness! You have lived that and your testimony is a blessing to others.ReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 4:47 pm

    Kelly S - What a sweet girl, and what a beautiful celebration of her life.ReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 7:18 pm

    Kim - I too started following your blog when Sweet Cora went into the hospital. I eagerly check your blog for updates on your sweet family. Waiting with anticipation for the birth of each of your precious boys. Your strong faith spoke to my heart and my husband’s. It changed our lives for ever. We celebrate Cora’s heaven day every year with pink and green balloons. Thank you for taking time to update your blog even though I am sure those sweet boys keep you running. Prayed extra prayers for Sweet Griffin. Glad all the tests were negative.ReplyCancel

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  • February 9, 2015 - 8:46 pm
  • February 9, 2015 - 11:35 pm

    Melissa Joy - I am crying with you: grieving with hope isn’t easy… Oh, for heaven!ReplyCancel

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  • February 12, 2015 - 10:33 pm

    PK - My prayers are with you. What a strong God loving woman you are!!!ReplyCancel

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  • February 13, 2015 - 1:23 am

    Stefanie - Thoughts and prayers for you and your family.ReplyCancel

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  • February 13, 2015 - 9:34 pm

    creole wisdom - Your testimony and beautiful faith just shine, Jess. Sending you lots of love and prayers from Minnesota.ReplyCancel

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  • February 18, 2015 - 1:10 pm

    Mary - Jess, I starting following your blog when precious little Cora was ill and I have watched your family grow so wonderfully out of such a time of despair. Your honesty in sharing your pain is appreciated and I think of Cora every February 8. She is surely smiling down from heaven as she watches her three little brothers grow. You have done a wonderful job raising them. Blessings to you and your family this Lenten Season.ReplyCancel

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  • February 23, 2015 - 9:37 pm

    k&c's mom - I’ve shared this same comment with you several times since 2009: I discovered your blog right after you lost Cora, and months before I lost my husband. I still believe that God used your words, your testimony and your faith to prepare me and help me through my loss. It’s been a joy to pray for your family over the years and continue to see the blessings God does pour over you. His mercies ARE ever new. Blessings on you and the entire family on this anniversary day.ReplyCancel

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She Reads Truth is offering a discount to my readers. Yay! Receive 15% off the She Reads Truth Shop using code JESSMAC (offer good today through midnight on Wednesday). Just add the items to your cart and redeem the discount code at checkout. There are so many great prints, scripture cards, study packs and more. I love that ampersand tee…so cute!

I have been working on The She Reads Truth The Bible in a Year plan. What about you? Anyone else doing a She Reads Truth study?

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  • January 12, 2015 - 1:37 pm

    chrissi - i just started one of their reading plans yesterday and i am so enjoying it. thanks for the code.ReplyCancel

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  • January 12, 2015 - 6:22 pm

    Hollie - I’m going through their yearly plan, too, and loving it! I’ve been eying some of their prints, so thanks!ReplyCancel

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  • January 14, 2015 - 2:26 pm

    Sarah D. - Yay! I’m doing the Bible in a Year plan, too. :) A friend surprised me with the tshirt– it’s my favorite!!ReplyCancel

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Sweet Jakey,

I decided that this photo series might have not been my best choice. I am struggling to hold you up like this at 5 months…how am I going to hold you up at 12 months?! You are one chunky little baby. We still like to call you Baby Tiny though.

This month you still are not really rolling. You can, but you don’t. Big baby problems. You are doing other fun things like starting to sit up, grabbing toys, trying so hard to grab our food (I have been dragging my feet on starting you on food…it’s just one more thing, you know?) and holding onto your toes all the time (reminds me of your sissy!). Pretty much you are grabbing everything. And you are so smiley. Lots of smiles all the time. You giggle when we tickle you but we are still waiting for you to giggle at your silly brothers.

You are loving your crib. You are napping better and going to bed much easier, but you still are waking up a few times a night! I love you so much but PLEASE STOP THAT!! I don’t know if I am getting too old or it’s just that much harder with three, but I am so tired. I am trying to soak in these late night cuddle sessions and time with you because I know they are temporary and one day I will sleep again. I want to be grateful for even the sleepless days. They are precious too.

We love you so much, Jake! I still can’t believe I have three boys. I have a feeling that you three are going to keep me on my toes…forever. I might not be catching up on my sleep anytime soon after all!;)

Love, Mama

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And here are a few more pics from the last month…

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Sweet, happy five month old Jake.

 

 

 

 

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  • January 12, 2015 - 10:18 am

    Kelly - This little anchor onesie is adorable!!! Seems perfect for him! :) Baby Tiny is super cute!! KellyReplyCancel

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  • January 12, 2015 - 2:11 pm

    Mary Ann - Baby Tiny is just so stinking cute…smiley and sweet. He does like his toes, just like his sissy. What a cute family you have. YUP….they will keep you on your toes. I really loved being a mom but being a grandmother is such special kind of fun. It brings back all those days of cuddling, slobbery kisses, and all those things that go with a baby. Now my grandson is 4 1/2 and it is amazing how the time flies by so fast.ReplyCancel

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  • January 12, 2015 - 7:58 pm

    Shena - He is ablsolutely adorable!! I love reading your blog and seeing your sweet kiddos!ReplyCancel

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  • January 12, 2015 - 10:23 pm

    Toni :0) - I love these updates and photos. They just radiate joy and he is truly a blessing from God. Bless his heart, sleep through the night Baby Tiny-it’s TIME!! LOL Hang in there Momma! ReplyCancel

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  • January 13, 2015 - 5:36 pm

    Deborah - Oh my! I just smiled at every picture. Reminds me of my own pup who is all grown up. Love checking in on your boys. Send my best to Julie. Miss her on her blog.
    DeborahReplyCancel

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  • January 15, 2015 - 3:25 pm

    leiah - What a chunk! So adorable!!!ReplyCancel

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  • January 19, 2015 - 11:10 am

    Emilie - He is completely perfect.ReplyCancel

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  • January 20, 2015 - 5:40 pm

    Stefanie - He’s so squishy and cute!!!ReplyCancel

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I love looking back on a year about to close. I love reflecting on the joys, knowing that the sorrows of the year are behind me (phew!) and praising God for all that He has done through it all. Some years I am relieved to say goodbye to and others I wish would linger a little longer. Like this year for instance…I like to refer to it as “the year of Jake”. We started the year announcing a new life that would be joining our family, God taught us a lot as we once again saw His faithfulness through a pregnancy scare, we welcomed Jake in the middle of the year, and after enjoying all those baby snuggles we ended the year by celebrating Jake’s first Christmas. While there definitely were ups and downs and I am hoping for a little more sleep in 2015, it doesn’t get much better than that. Praise God for a year full of so much life and joy!

Now it is time to look ahead. Honestly, I always kind of dread the start of a new year. All around me there is excitement and talk of fresh starts, resolutions, new goals, a hope-filled word, or dreaming big in the year ahead. But January and February tend to be months that I struggle through. It’s nothing horrible, just a lot of trudging through hard memories and grief that creep back in with the turn of the calendar year. The calendar finally turns to March, I make it through another birthday without my daughter, I see glimpses of Spring ahead, and I feel like I can breathe a little easier again. It’s so hard to explain. And I won’t try. I know there are some of you who will be experiencing new life and great joy in this new year and I am praising God along with you. But others of you are facing this new year dealing with a miscarriage and grieving the little life that should have been, or learning how to do life and move forward without someone you love and miss like crazy, or getting a diagnosis that is threatening to rock your world, or just pulling a lot of hurt and disappointment along with you from the year we just closed. My heart has been aching for you. It only takes a minute to look around and see that this year, this year of new beginnings, is already full of heartache for so many. And while I am not trying to put a downer on the newness that January brings I am reminded that there is so much uncertainty in this world. Thankfully we don’t have to dwell in that uncertainty or fear as we wonder what this new year will hold.

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

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

I love the verse in John because while it acknowledges the very real pain that most of us will face, that is not the end…praise God! Take heart! There is Someone who has overcome the world for us. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has conquered sin and pain and death. We can look forward with anticipation because true hope and peace lie ahead because of Jesus. And while this year might be full of uncertainties this verse reminds me of an unchanging God who has overcome the world. Not a God that might overcome the world but a God who HAS overcome the world. Change is hard. Uncertainty is hard. But I am so thankful that I can sink my feet firm and secure in my unchanging God. The Rock eternal. True peace in this crazy world is found in Him alone.

I am right there with you setting goals and longing for growth as we start fresh, but I don’t want to try to “define” what this year is going to look like for me. Instead I want to dig deep into knowing the God who made me and knows me and seek to work alongside Him in His plans for my life. I want a steadfast mind that trusts in the Lord. More important that eating better, or learning a new skill, or whatever else…my first goal is to be in God’s Word daily, getting to know my Savior a little better this year. Finding my worth and security and peace in Him, not in what I can accomplish on my own. Allowing Him to guide me in the decisions and plans I make. And standing firm on the Rock when the troubles of this world threaten to knock me down.

Do you want to commit to dig deeper into God’s Word this year? I put together a little list of a few ways to do just that:

1. If you have been reading this blog very long you know my love for Bible Study Fellowship I have learned so much about how to study God’s Word from BSF. And my kids love it too! Their children’s program is fantastic. I can’t think of anything better than learning God’s Word alongside my kids. I know that my BSF group is taking new people in January. So, if you are looking for a Bible Study to start in the New Year check out the website to find a BSF near you and get started! We start up again on Wednesday…which reminds me that I am behind on my lesson!

2. There are some great Bible reading plans out there. I like the ones from The Navigators. How about reading through the Bible or reading through the New Testament this year? Check out the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan, Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan, or the 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan. I noticed that most of these plans are available on the Bible app which makes it really easy to keep track of your reading each day.

3. Speaking of reading through the Bible…remember the She Reads Truth Advent study I talked about last month? Well, She Reads Truth has come out with their own read through the Bible in a year plan. The Bible in a Year is free on the She Reads Truth app and you can keep track of your reading right on your phone. She Reads Truth also has other studies available to purchase for $1.99 if you are wanting to focus on studying one book of the Bible at a time. I have only done the Advent study but they all look so good!

4. If you are looking for a study to do on your own or maybe with a Bible study group I love the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series by Nancy Guthrie. This series does such a great job of showing you God’s plan from the beginning, woven all throughout the pages of Scripture. I have done the first two studies and was so thankful how they helped me move from seeing the Old Testament as a bunch of Sunday School stories to seeing that even the Old Testament is all about Jesus and God’s great rescue plan that started from the very beginning.

5. Do you think this all sounds great but you really don’t know where to start with reading your Bible or having a daily quiet time? I’ve been there too. Women of the Word and A Place of Quiet Rest have both been really helpful in guiding my quiet time and learning how to dig deep into God’s Word. I highly recommend them both!

Now, ideally I would have posted this before January 1…but obviously that didn’t happen. The good news is that it is never too late to commit to being in the Word. Start now!

And please tell me…how do you plan to go deeper in God’s Word this year?

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  • January 6, 2015 - 8:17 am

    Haley F - Perfect timing for this post! I literally spent 2 hours yesterday searching for a good mommy/women bible study book/guide after feeling convicted to get more intimate with the bible. After reading your post, I realized one of the books I added to my cart was the Women of the Word. I guess I know what I need to do now…

    purchase and start reading immediately!

    Thanks for the guidance and nudge!ReplyCancel

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  • January 6, 2015 - 8:49 am

    Jody - I totally get what you are saying. For me December is the month that is hard. Some years it is easier than others. This past one wasn’t.

    This year I’m planning to read the Bible everyday. Hopefully I’ll get through it all, but just developing the habit and the hunger is my true goal.ReplyCancel

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  • January 6, 2015 - 10:36 am

    Emily - I didn’t know that you went to BSF too! This is my fourth year and I love it!!! I’m always inviting new friends to come along and try it. Of course, those that actually come love it too! Someday if I’m blessed with children, I want them to be in the children’s classes too. I love volunteering in those classes and always learn so much from the kids!ReplyCancel

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  • January 7, 2015 - 2:49 pm

    Keri - Hi Jess,

    I have been reading your blog for years, and your post really spoke to me. I just received a diagnosis that my healthy, happy 10 year old son has Tourette’s Syndrome. A diagnosis that rocked our world. I weep when I think about the hard road ahead of him.ReplyCancel

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  • January 7, 2015 - 10:25 pm

    Kimberly - I love your blog and how your unwavering faith is always at the forefront. Thanks for all your Bible Study suggestions! I am wondering if you have any good resources for Bible Studies with kids? I’ve read the Beginner’s Bible countless times to my kids, and I have the Jesus Storybook Bible which I love, but think it’s a little wordy for my busy 1 year old. I would love to switch it up a little, but not really sure what resources to use. Help?ReplyCancel

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  • January 7, 2015 - 11:38 pm

    Danielle - Beautiful post, Jess! And thank you for all of the great resources! I’m actually nearing the end of “The Bible in 90 Days” program. Although, honestly, it’s taken me longer than 90 days…chemo-brain makes it impossible some days to concentrate and/or comprehend. However, I have LOVED reading about Jesus’ healing power while experiencing it for myself! Prayers and love to your beautiful family! And continued prayers, especially for strength, during the next few months. Love, Danielle ps…Thank you for the beautiful Christmas card! :)ReplyCancel

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  • January 8, 2015 - 12:17 pm

    Mary Ann - My plan this year is to study the New Testament…His words, His life, His sacrifice for me and for all of us. I was talking to a friend at work. He asked me what I thought was an odd question: “How do you always stay so upbeat and happy?” I had a hard time answering. Part of it is who I am…happy, upbeat, positive but part of it is going through loss (my husband and both parents in 7 months in 2008/2009) but it’s more than that. I have a 4-year-old grandson. I try to look at life through his eyes and his life, which as your know is full of adventures, laughing, having fun. It’s hard for me comprehend losing a child but I still feel that sting at the loss of my husband. It’s not the same but it still gives me a little bit of understand on how hard these next few months are for you. My friend told me of some of his heartaches with his twin girls. He lost one twin at age 9 years. The other twin sister is living but also had great challenges in her young life. He then asked me to come to his office. He gave me two prints of the Savior. One is called “Compassionate Christ” and the other is called “Healing.” The originals were painted by his wife. The healing one is so beautiful. Christ is standing by the Sea of Galilee. He has his hands together, kind of cupped like you could put something in them. This man’s wife was inspired to paint this one because of a conversation she had with her daughter (the living twin). She told her daughter to think of each trial or hardship as a big rock. Then picture handing that rock to the Lord. If we do our best and do everything in our power to trust and love the Lord, then we can give our troubles to him…one rock at a time. He is afterall, the Rock of our Salvation. He can heal us like nothing or no one else can. I wish for you to have a wonderful year, seeing your boys grow and develop, having fun adventures, and that you are all healthy and happy. I love your photos and your words are always very wise. You have learned something so miraculous…how to empathize with the heartaches of others. You see beyond yourself and understand in a very real way that everyone has sorrow and heartache but you know there is a way to overcome and heal. Take care my young friend. My thoughts will be with you these next few months where Cora will of course be in the forefront of your thoughts. I hope sweet peace washes over you as you think of that lovely baby and how much she taught you and how much love you have for her. The love never ends.ReplyCancel

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  • January 9, 2015 - 11:44 am

    Ranee - Thanks for this post..so many good options out there! I am really loving She Reads Truth…I started their studies last year and this year, decided to get the study pack to go along with them and am loving them so much…I would highly recommend them! Also, I loved reading this post and how you welcomed Baby Jake–we are expecting a new baby at our house too–due this July 27!! :)ReplyCancel

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