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a reason to sing

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God is Him.

1 John 4:16

In His essential nature and in all His actions, God is loving.

Today is Cora’s heaven anniversary. Four years ago we said goodbye to our sweet daughter. This day brings back so many emotions and hard memories. I remember so vividly having to agree that we had held Cora long enough (as if that was even possible), handing her over to the nurse and walking down the long hospital hallway to go home without my girl in my arms. I was in such a state of shock and the only thing I can remember is thinking…what do I do now? While sometimes I need to walk through those moments again and allow Jesus to meet me in my sorrow, I have to be careful not to stay there.

Even four years later, I have felt attacked by doubts as this anniversary approached. Some deep things but also silly things like why I didn’t wear a dress to my daughter’s funeral have plagued my mind. I told Joel that I had something really dumb that had been bothering me. I explained about the whole dress thing. How I had worn pants that day and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t worn a dress to my own daughter’s funeral. And then I burst into tears. He hugged me and let me cry for awhile like he always does. Then he looked at me with a sweet smile and said, “You wore really nice pants, didn’t you?” He was trying to comfort me but it just made me laugh. Somehow it brought things quickly back into perspective. I can always count on Joel to make me laugh even when I am sad. And he was right, they were really nice pants. πŸ™‚

But along with the attacks I have felt God’s love in so many tangible ways. When I was helping in the kids program at BSF the teacher was teaching the babies that God sees us, God hears us, and God helps us. Those words keep coming to mind as I’ve walked through these hospital days again. It has been like God saying…Jess, I see you sitting in your kitchen crying because tomorrow is a really hard day. I hear you telling Joel about the pants and know that deep down you just miss your daughter like crazy. I have helped you each step of the way as you have navigated through grief the past four years and I will never leave your side as you keep moving forward. I will help you, day by day and step by step. I love you more than you will ever know and even losing Cora is part of my loving plan for your life. Someday, when you are in My presence, on that glorious day of rejoicing, you will understand.

I must have needed a few more reminders this week, because reminders of His love for me is just what I got. A blog reader came up and introduced herself to me while I was out for lunch earlier this week. She had her newborn twins with her and told me that she had named her little girl Cora, because of my Cora. I got to meet her sweet daughter and was reminded that even four years later, Cora’s story continues to touch people in ways that I could never imagine.

Today I sent in a bio for another opportunity I have been given to share my story. It still baffles me that I could even be considered a speaker. But it was another reminder, that fell at just the right time. A reminder that when I am faithful to share what He is doing in my life He will continue to use my heartache for His glory. I am so thankful that He continues to allow me to encourage others by sharing His faithfulness to me. What a gift.

After I had a good cry over the whole crazy pants thing, I was picking up my house before going to bed and this song came on:

I will bring praise I will bring praise

No weapon formed against me shall remain

I will rejoice I will declare

God is my victory and He is here

*Β  *Β  *

All of my life in every season You are still God

I have a reason to sing I have a reason to worship

In every season of my life, He is God. He is who He says He is. He loves me and is loving in all He does. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard. That doesn’t mean that I will always understand. But God is my victory. I can stand firm on who He is and the promises He has given us.

And that gives me a reason to sing.

Today was hard, but good. I’ll tell you more about it in a few days. Thanks so much for praying for us. I am still amazed that so many remember my Cora’s heaven anniversary and lift us up in prayer. We are forever grateful.

  • Ceri - Dear Jess, I have no words other than We are praying for you. I am. We all are. I thought of you often today, and have been praying. May the lord bless you, and give you peace. Thank you for sharing your faith with us.ReplyCancel

  • Nirupama - Jess+Joel – I think about your sweet daughter Cora all the time. You have definitely touched many hearts. Praying for comfort and peace for you today. You are shining examples as parents.ReplyCancel

  • Alexis Moran - Your description of the pants brought me to tears… while this whole post just brought me to tears.

    I get so much encouragement from your blog. You are an unimaginably strong women and reading your blog 4 years ago ecouraged me to deepen and further my relationship with God. Your girl is touching so many lives and has kept my life in perspective on so many occasions. Prayers to your sweet sweet family!


  • Micah - Thinking of you and praying for you through these very difficult days. Thank you for sharing so much of your heart with us and helping us grow to be more like Him.ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Love and prayers.ReplyCancel

  • Hannah Lesley - Your perspective and faith is such an amazing example. I got chills while reading this post.ReplyCancel

  • Marcia - Ive been reading your blog since before Cora got sick. I’m still so sorry you lost her! I’ve prayed and prayed for you over the years and you have been an encouragement to me! Thinking of your family today!ReplyCancel

  • Melanie Martini - Jess, your post has brought me to tears. It will be 16 years ago on February 11th that my daughter went to Heaven. For a long time, I worried about something that is similar to your thoughts about why you didn’t wear a dress to Cora’s funeral. We buried our daughter in a beautiful pink dress. For months I agonized over why I didn’t put her pink sweater on her too. I kept thinking she would be cold. One day, I shared my thoughts with my husband and cried as I told him. Like Joel, he looked at me and said, “but her dress was beautiful and she looked beautiful in it…..”. The whole thing made no sense, but it was real to me all the same. Bless you, Jess and Joel.ReplyCancel

  • Leah Kuepfer - I just wanted you to know that I have really enjoyed reading your blog over the past few years. My first daughter is very close to Cora’s age. She was born Feb. 17th 2008. I remember reading about you losing Cora with my daughter sleeping in my arms and crying while I read it. So often after reading your blog I’m reminded of the blessing I have with her especially when struggling with discipline issues etc. Your walk with Christ and how you have handled your grief through that has been a huge encouragement to me even though I have never lost someone really close to me.
    I also have been inspired by watching some one else parent their children by working at heart change and not only outward change. Its encouraging to see it lived out and not only read about it. Even though I understand falling short of those goals many times πŸ™‚ and realizing your own sinful heart through it.
    So thank you for letting God work through you through the difficult times in your life and your dedication to growing and becoming more like Christ in the process.
    Leah Kuepfer (Ontario, Canada)ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly - Jess, I love your blog and have been following you for a few years. This post made me cry as I thought, “I can’t imagine losing my own children.” I would have had the exact same thoughts that you’ve had. I hate that you had to go through that, but it has been so encouraging to me to see how your faith has grown, and I love your perspective on raising your children. Even in the hard times, you are able to see the positives– it definitely has spoken to me in my hard days as a parent. It is obvious your faith is genuine and you are allowing God to use this tragedy for good in your life and in your readers’ lives through your blog. Prayers for you and your family through this hard time. Some day you’ll be celebrating Cora’s heaven birthday with her!ReplyCancel

  • creole wisdom - You are a beautiful, wonderful person, wife and mother. Your story is a hard one, but you’ve made your trial beautiful through faith. I’m sure this is a hard time of year for you, sending prayers and love from Minnesota.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - I am praying for you and your hubby as you miss your sweet daughter today, this week, this month. God is faithful, and I pray that you will continue to find comfort and peace in Him. He will hold you when you can’t stand.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah@ This Farm Family's Life - I remembered and thought of you all on this special day. I continue to keep you in my prayers!!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Thank you so much for sharing your heart with your readers.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah W. - I constantly remember and often speak of your family and Cora. Prayers for your family are constant. You are so strong and such an inspiration and wonderful role model.ReplyCancel

  • Yolanda Pound - Dear Jess and Joel,
    Have been following your blog since sweet Cora became ill. How could any of us who prayed for you forget Cora. Your family has been an inspiration to me since I first heard about Cora through Kelly’s Korner blog. My great aunt was named Cora; I never got to meet her cause she died at age 16, long before I was born. Love the name Cora, and love how beautiful your baby girl was. My oldest daughter lost her baby girl Regan due to stillbirth. Lori was 6 months pregnant. Baby Regan was perfect in every way, doctors believer the amniotic fluid was low. We all got to hold Regan and bid her hello and goodbye–yet God comforted us in our grief Have so enjoyed seeing pictures of the two wonderful little boys God has so graciously added to your family. More importantly, am rejoicing with you and Joel as God continues to lovingly work in your special family. Isn’t our Lord wonderful to have created us with a sense of humor–so glad that he turned your tears about “wearing pants” to JOY and laughter. He is the God who Sees, (El Roi). I believe in the common vernacular of 2013 this statement would be: He has your back”!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kasey - I read Cora’s story right around the time my son was turning 1 {he was born February 21, 2008} and it brought tears to my eyes. I don’t read blogs all that often {trying to change that} but I have always came over to your blog to sort of ‘check in’ on how you and your family have been doing. Your boys are adorable and I only wish for the best for you and your family. Hugs and Prayers! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Jenni - I hope and pray that on what is probably your hardest day of the year you were somehow blessed, even in the midst of the hard emotions and memories. I know that the hardest days of the year for me are those on the death anniversaries of the ones I have loved who are gone, it can feel isolating and lonely as time goes by and other people forget the significance of the day and how much pain it can bring up. God is glorified by your story and Cora’s and it is very encouraging to hear that it is still touching other peoples lives 4 years later. Your story has forever impacted my life and I will never forget it.ReplyCancel

  • Toni :0) - Still here and praying all these years. I just prayed at church specifically for her as she was on my heart tonight. Thank you for sharing your life and boys with all of us. God bless you always!ReplyCancel

  • Cory Lyons - Sweet, Beloved Childhood friend…how I wish I could be there at your farm house to hold your hand and cry with you. I would love to hear more of your darling Cora, even silly things you remember. I ache her loss with you still, I celebrate and honor her precious days with you and Joel, I pray for continued healing and for joy beyond your expectations and for much singing! Cora, you dear, dear one…what a legacy you have left! Much love, many prayers and sincere, big hugs across the miles….Cory Lyons (Ferguson:)ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - I, too, have been following your blog since Cora became sick. My heart is so heavy for your loss and I can’t even imagine losing a child. However, your incredible faith is such an inspiration. For a while, I struggled with how such a beautiful, innocent, & loved baby could be taken from such lovely parents. I struggled with finding the good. Years later, I see the good thru the bad. Your love for God and trust in him is amazing to me. I could only wish my relationship with Him is as strong as yours. I know you are humble about it and often beat yourself up about being distracted but it scares me to even think what would happen to my faith if I was in your shoes. You are an incredible mother. I admire your faith. I adore your beautiful family. Thank you for sharing both your family and faith with us.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle from Australia - Dearest Jess

    I can remember the first time I answered a prayer request for Cora. And I have been Blessed to be able to follow your journey ever since.

    Beautiful Cora has often been at the front of my mind when facing challenges in our family.

    Your writings inspire me so often and so many levels. Thank you for letting us follow your journey Jess. And may Cora long live on in the hearts and minds of the many people she touched.

    Michelle xReplyCancel

  • Beth - As always, Cora’s story inspires me. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart with us.ReplyCancel

  • k&c's mom - Jess,
    Your blog was the first one I read. I do not even know how I found it, but I’ve followed your sweet family for over four years. What I learned here helped prepare me for the loss of my husband. You were able to comfort in the area that you have been comforted, and for that I am so very grateful. Prayers continue for you and yours.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - I’m so thankful our God pours reminders of His love on us exactly when we need them most! I can’t wait for the day we get to see our little ones again!! Sending you lots of love and prayers, friend! xoReplyCancel

  • Jen C. - Jess-I have been following your blog for a long time. You truly are an inspiration to many. I have a niece named Cora and any time I hear her name, I think of your Cora. Take care.ReplyCancel

  • chrissi - Dear Jess, Like all your “blog friends” we are praying for you and Joel this week. I cannot imagine. I just want to thank you for sharing so much through your posts. I always leave your blog feeling better than when I came. You always share such a pure love of the Lord. Thank you for that. Your faith just shines so brightly. You and your family are a great gift. Blessings.ReplyCancel

  • Lori Raile - Joel and Jess,
    We thought of you this weekend and prayed Saturday was a special day filled with sweet memories of Cora. Your family and your precious girl will never be forgotten by our family. She touched us all.
    Lori Kruse RaileReplyCancel

  • audrielle - came across your story on apartment therapy. Thank you for being brave enough/vulnerable enough to share it. I just know like you said God will continue to use your sweet little Cora for His glory.

    -fellow kansan

  • Stefanie - You have created such a beautiful legacy for your sweet Cora. She has done so much through her short life and brought such glory to God. We lost our son Chase during pregnancy almost 2 years ago and we are now expecting a baby girl, who we are naming Cora. Your Cora is the inspiration behind her name. Praying for comfort for you, Joel and your families.ReplyCancel

  • Lori - You once shared words of comfort with me as I prepared for a tough day. Know that you are in my prayers and I hope you are feeling His loving arms around you.ReplyCancel

  • Allison - I too am in BSF! Did you see in the BSF notes this week how the question was asked how will someone’s death bring about great faith? Wow! Not only was the fourth my mom’s birthday (she passed away the November before Cora went with the Lord), but yesterday marked five years that one of our youth went to be the Lord and I read that and cried. God meets us, He holds us and I just pray for you that He continues to make His presence known to you and loves you and continues to fix your broken heart in ways only He can.ReplyCancel

  • becky - Jess, I first came across your blog via prayer requests from a friend while Cora was still in the hospital. I have a little girl Cora’s age and I remember checking your blog constantly before Cora died and for so many, many months after. I felt so wracked with pain for you guys, pain I didn’t know existed until becoming a mother. I have prayed for you so many, many times over the years, this stranger from the blogosphere.

    I haven’t read your blog in probably 2 years. Tonight you were suddenly on my mind as I came across another mother’s grief (Remembering Ann Reese) and I thought, “I need to check Jess’ blog!” Seeing the anniversary of Cora’s homegoing reminds me of this: She is still so very important, so crucial. Her life still matters. I am a total stranger and I still think about her. That means she is weighty, she is heavy, she is eternal. I think you know this. I’m writing this a little for me. I’m encouraged by you…by the knowledge that is watching me, hearing me and helping me. Thank you for pouring your sorrows and your joys out as a drink offering – that we may be brought nearer to the Father as we observe you.ReplyCancel

  • Amie - Hellooooo…..

    My heart has been heavy and full of prayers this last week thinking about those 4 years ago. Just want you to know how blessed we are to have you in our lives.
    Your faith and words have taught us sooooo much and continue to always put things in perspective for me. Cora is never far from my heart, prayers and mind.
    May God continue to bless you and grant you peace and love even at the hardest of times.

    Miss you lots!ReplyCancel

  • Lemonade Makin' Mama - Oh what a heart wrenching day… just said a prayer of peace over your whole sweet little household. You are a good Mama. And it sure sounds like you have a good man who loves you to pieces. Isn’t it amazing that God cares about every tear we shed? What would we do without Him?

    Good night sweet thing…ReplyCancel

  • Paige - I have never met you; however, I have been reading your blog, and feeling connected to your family for years now. Each year your pain and strength teaches me. I can be strong if you can be strong. You are such a great example for us all. Visiting your blog is like going to church. Thank you for all you do for your readers and may God bless you each day.ReplyCancel

  • Susan - Oh Jess! I wish I had the right words to say. Grief is such a hard thing to have to live with and I look forward to getting a few answers myself when we get to heaven one day!! While the day to day running of life takes on a new normal, Cora will never be far from your thoughts and special occassions will always leave you feeling a little sad. You’re entitled to it. Losing a child is one of life’s greatest challenges and one of my biggest fears. I lost my husband nearly 9 years ago (he was 26), when my baby was 6 weeks old. I miss him so much, every day, but I still have my baby to hold and for that I am so grateful.

    Sending you a thousand hugs,
    Sue XReplyCancel

  • Meghan Hein - I am catching up on weeks of posts here and I got chills reading this post. This past weekend at church we were reading about God’s testing of Abraham in Genesis, when he asked him to sacrifice his one and only son after waiting for countless years for his dream of a child to come true. The sermon went into reasons why God tests us, and how we can be encouraged by God’s word throughout the Bible to endure these difficult challenges. I was just sitting in church, trying to focus, but my mind kept drifting off to you and your story. Now being a Mom myself I can NOT imagine the pain that you’ve gone through losing Cora. I try not to even imagine what it’s like to walk in your shoes because I simply can not bare the thought. And yet, I couldn’t help but think… I should write to you and just let you know that you are TRULY a LIVING example of God’s word. You have endured the most unthinkable pain and you still praise Him and bring so much Glory to Him. Our Heavenly Father must look down upon you and smile. I’m sure He is so proud to call you His daughter. Every scripture we read, I kept thinking… yep, that’s Jess and that one too… and yes, that one. You are an incredible light. Thank you for sharing your heart and your journey. We can all learn so much from you.ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Meghan-Thanks so much for your sweet words and encouragement. I actually just studied the story of Abraham and Isaac in BSF and was so challenged. I loved that I was studying that passage the week we were celebrating Cora’s heaven anniversary. But I just kept thinking…man, I have so far to go and so much to learn to be like Abraham. πŸ˜‰ So thankful for God’s Word and how He speaks to us through it!

    • Jess - Meghan-Thanks so much for your sweet words and encouragement. I actually just studied the story of Abraham and Isaac in BSF and was so challenged. I loved that I was studying that passage the week we were celebrating Cora’s heaven anniversary. But I just kept thinking…man, I have so far to go and so much to learn to be like Abraham. πŸ˜‰ So thankful for God’s Word and how He speaks to us through it!ReplyCancel