missing milestones

I vividly remember grieving the many future milestones that I would miss out on seeing after Cora died. Not only did I miss her like crazy as an eleven month old but it just about killed me to think about not getting to see her grow up and the woman she would become. Three months after she died I attended my sister-in-law’s high school graduation and remember the tears just streaming down my face as I sat there. They wouldn’t stop. The reality that I would never get to see my baby girl grow up and graduate from high school was devastating. Those milestones seemed so far off at the time but I remember wondering how I would ever survive when the day came for her first day of kindergarten or her high school graduation or when her friends started getting married and having babies.

Today a day that once seemed so far off is here. This morning I am sitting in my unusually quiet house as my boys are miraculously sleeping in late (it never happens!!). And I can’t help but wonder how this day would have been different if, instead of just being a typical Monday at home, I would be driving my little girl to school all decked out with new school clothes and new school supplies. I can imagine that we both would have had butterflies in our stomachs, me wondering how she was going to do at school without me and how I was going to do at home without her.

Today would have been Cora’s first day of kindergarten.

You guys, the Lord has done a mighty healing work in my life. As I look back to that day when I let go of my Cora for the first time I am just in awe of God’s sustaining and sufficient grace in my life over the past four years. He truly has brought me out of a pit, set my feet on a rock, and given me a firm place to stand. He’s put a new song in my mouth and I praise Him for His redeeming work in my life (Psalm 40:1-3). But grief is a funny thing. It is a constant letting go and handing the “what ifs” back over to God. I’m not sure how it has been for other grieving mamas, but as Cora’s birthday approaches each year it seems like I have to struggle through letting go again. I let go of a longing to know Cora as a three year old or four year old or now five year old. And today just seems like another step of letting go. Letting go of knowing what it would have been like to send my baby off to school for the first time. Letting go of wondering if she would be running into the classroom or hiding behind my legs, if she would be a leader or a follower, who her little friends would be, and seeing her precious name written around the classroom instead of on a gravestone.

It is hard for me to let go. I just want to cry and kick and scream and hang on…and I can’t.

Letting go is not easy. But it has been such a good reminder for me to cling to the One who never lets go of me. The One who is always with me no matter what is happening in my life. It is so easy to find comfort and security in the things of this world, even in our families. I find myself trying to cling to those unstable and changing securities instead of clinging to Jesus at all times. Our plans and dreams don’t always turn out quite like we had planned. And often we have to let go of our plans and dreams all together and trust God with His good and perfect plan for our lives.

I find great comfort in the One secure thing in my life, Jesus.

Knowing Jesus as my Refuge, my Shelter, my Rock, and my Anchor has given me the freedom to slowly let go of gripping grief, hand my heartache and fears over to Him, allow Him to meet me in the midst of my sorrow and sing the new song He has given to me.

As I finish writing this post my boys are outside cruising around the yard in their jeep. I was watching them out the window and saw Levi jump out and tell Griffin that he’d be right back. He came running in through the door with a big smile proudly holding out a yellow dandelion. I told him thank you and that I loved him and then he went running outside saying, “I love you too, Mom! And make sure you put it in some water!” That little moment was a gift today.

The gifts of today are not the ones I planned or imagined but they are the ones that God knows are best for me. While my heart is aching for that little kindergarten girl to be running through my door after school, I am going to choose to be thankful for the gifts God has given me today. They are abounding.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you. Psalm 9:9-10

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3

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  • August 19, 2013 - 2:39 pm

    flowerpowermomma - bless your beautiful momma-heart.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 3:15 pm

    Kylie - I’ve read your blog for a very long time and you inspire me so much. Each time you write about Cora I cry because the pain you go through is just unimaginable. But you are so honest and you give your grief to God in such an awesome way. You make me want to be a better Christian, wife and mom every time I read your words. Thanks for being real! So thankful Levi was able to be so sweet just when you needed it.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 3:20 pm

    Krista - Oh Jess, what a beautiful post. Your faith is amazing. I don’t know if I could be so graceful, actually I am sure I couldn’t. I am saying a prayer for you right now. I so wish you were able to see that sweet little kingergartener in the flesh today but what a wonderful gift He has given you that you are able to count your blessings. You are a wonderful mama. Hugs from Florida.
    babykatesmomReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 3:25 pm

    Alicia Cooper - If this was Facebook and I could hit the like button on Kylie’s comment I would do it a thousand times. She Sid everything I was thinking as I finished reading your post. You really are an inspiration to so many for so many different reasons!ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 4:27 pm

    Aimee - I have read your blog for a long time and it seems like the day I need to hear something you happen to write about it! I have been struggling with my faith lately and things just don’t seem to be going the way that I want them to or need them to! But never fail, you always say the words that ease my mind and warm my heart! My stuff is small stuff and I need to let it go and enjoy the small moments with my kids! Thanks!ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 4:57 pm

    gin - i read this with tears. I am so sorry as your heart aches for your Cora. I am thankful that you can share God with us on your blog. We lost a baby at 5 months pregnant, and I wonder what she would be like, how it would be with 4 kids instead of 3. Thank you for reminding me of God in my life.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 5:18 pm

    Kimberly - I agree with Kylie’s comment above– I love your honesty and your sweet spirit. It brings rears to ny eyes. Every time you write about Cora, I think of what a sweet reunion you will have with her in Heaven.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 6:29 pm

    Michelle from Australia - As I drove my kiddos to school today, I thought of this post and cried. I wish your reality was not without Cora. I wish my reality was not with two children with special needs. But I remind myself day after day, it is not the hand of cards God has dealt us. It is how we play them that matters. God Bless you Jess and thank you for sharing your journey with us lucky enough to ‘know’ you. M xReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 8:12 pm

    Toni :O) - I really gulped reading your words. I cannot believe I’ve been a follower of yours for so long, time just seems to whiz by and yet Cora is still so real in my thoughts and prayers. I pray for you all so often, to bring healing grace, comfort and peace. You have unimaginable pain and yet your faith is so prevalent. I cling to my faith as much as your cling to yours and I’m so grateful for that faith, for that honesty, for Jesus in our life. It’s truly comforting and I’m thrilled that those two sweet boys of yours bring you so much joy and laughter and of course a different kind of sweetness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, so many of us still stand behind you trying to lift you up and encourage you. You truly inspire all of us, thank you for that. :O)ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 8:32 pm

    jennifer rogers - I have followed your blog ever since Cora was in the hospital. You are a strong woman. I am so sorry that you didn’t get to live that milestone with Cora today. Life is not fair and it just stinks that we cannot have our loved ones with us all the time but know that she is with you and watching over you and I truly believe that one day you will be reunited with your sweet baby girl once again and when that day comes you will never have to let her go again!!! Hugs to you today!!ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 8:47 pm

    Aly - I stumbled across your blog a couple of years ago and have been reading ever since. Finding you was the mighty work of the Creator. Though our stories are different, I too have a daughter that I long for. Tomorrow, she would be 22 weeks old. She went to be with Jesus a few short hours after her birth. While I am still in the pit you speak of, I know that someday my feet will find solid ground. Thank you for sharing your heart.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 9:01 pm

    Amy - I read this tonight and my heart hurts for you…you are a truly gifted writer, and your words really touch people. A lot of people I love have lost people that they love lately, and your perspective is one that they can really relate to. I pray that you will cling to the verses that you quoted, and that you find peace in them even as the days/months/years march on. Much love to you, Jess.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 9:05 pm

    Julie - Thanks so much for sharing. You’re a living testament that His mercies are new every morning.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 9:24 pm

    Lindsey - You are amazingReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 9:32 pm

    Andrea - Jess-this was beautiful. Thinking of you today and crying some tears with you :) hugsReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 11:15 pm

    Erica - Oh Jess. I can feel the heaviness of this day for you and one day I’m not looking forward to either. One thing I’ve been thinking about lately has been if I don’t let go I don’t have open hands to cling to Jesus. It’s helped reminding myself of this, but man is it tough. Love you friend and would love to connect while we are in the states. We’re in Wichita now, but have a couple of trips planned the next couple of weeks. One of which is to the Respite Retreat. Thank you so much for recommending it. I’m praying for a boring couple of weeks with this pregnancy so we can go.ReplyCancel

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  • August 19, 2013 - 11:52 pm

    Leah S. - My heart longs and aches with you on this day, though it cannot begin to fathom the depth of your pain. I am so thankful for the freedom and peace and beauty from ashes we are able to experience through Christ alone. Praying for you, and thinking of you!ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 12:22 am

    Trisha - My Nate (also born 3/5/08) would be heading off to Kinder in Sept. I had a really hard time in the spring when our school kept sending out emails reminding mamas to “register their kids for kindergarten”. Ugh…it slapped me upside the head on a weekly basis.

    Now that everyone is getting ready to start school I’m feeling it again. It’s not the same overwhelming grief that I felt 5 years ago…God sent a rainbow and many blessings along the way. But, it’s still raining (you can’t have a rainbow without rain) and some days I just feel sad that I won’t get to raise my son.

    I’m sorry that you know this pain too but blessed to know that I am not alone :)

    Hugs,
    TrishaReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 1:48 am

    Nirupama - Your Cora is so well loved. I cried as I read this post too. I reread Anne of the Island after losing our baby early in pregnancy thus spring. Anne lost her first baby and said she didn’t want to meet her all grown up in heaven and not know her. She said later that she felt she saw her grow up and a new baby didn’t replace her. I think the way you think of Cora at each milestone, each birthday is so similar. It is a way of knowing her, watching her grow up until you meet again in heaven. Praying for you and your sweet family.ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 8:01 am

    Jamie B - Thank you for sharing your heart. You have a beautiful gift of writing.ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 8:49 am

    Susan in Indiana - Your words are beautiful and inspiring. Your witness is indescribable. I started reading your blog when sweet Cora was in the hospital and have read it faithfully since then. Thank you for sharing your heart with us and helping us all to walk closer to our Lord. Your words bless me and help me be a better mom, wife and Christian. Praying for you!ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 9:15 am

    Katie D - Thank you for sharing from your heart what God has been teaching you. While our situations are not the same, I can relate to what you said. We have had 2 miscarriages in the last 7 months (one at 14 weeks and one at 6 weeks). It is hard not to think about the “what ifs,” but that is only a downward spiral. We are to set our eyes on things above. When my emotions tell me one thing and scripture tells me another I must choose to hold fast to God’s Word. It is true and unchanging.ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 10:18 am

    Kim E. - You wrote, “But grief is a funny thing. It is a constant letting go and handing the ‘what ifs’ back over to God.” That is it exactly! Those “what ifs” are so hard, and they seem to come round for me as my older daughters are experiencing new things that my youngest daughter will never get to. It’s kind of like living in two different places at the same time. So, so bittersweet.

    Thank you for sharing your heart so beautifully.ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 10:31 am

    Amanda - Beautifully said Jess.
    Prayers for continued strength as you endure all the would be special days. Your faith is inspiring! Thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 1:24 pm

    Mary Ann - So many times we take for granted those every day things…bathing a child, helping them dress, reading to them, seeing them on their first day of school, taking pictures, having birthday parties…I can’t begin to imagine how hard and difficult it is for you and your family to be missing your adorable Cora. What a treasure the pictures and memories you do have of her are to you!! She must be so proud of her parents and her darling brothers. You must be so proud of her and so happy she picked you to be her mother. The Lord is mindful of your sorrow and heartache but I pray that his tender and most generous mercies attend you as you continue to live life and raise your boys. You are right…we don’t need to look very far to see the goodness and blessings in our lives. Even in loss, there is triumph–just like our Savior, he was at his lowest in the Garden and on the cross but he triumphed over death so that we could also triumph over death. He did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. All we do is the best we can and all will be made perfect someday. Good thoughts and a wish for a joyous day today!!ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 3:19 pm

    chantelle - My Mommy heart aches for you. You are so brave and strong. What a beautiful reminder to live for each moment. Hugs!ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 9:41 pm

    Jenni - this was so great for me to read! jess, you have come such a long way! And it would have been a very special a day for you, and one that is ok to miss and be sad about, but release to the Lord, which you are doing so well! I needed to hear this. I just sent my oldest to kindergarten, but it started a wave of emotions for when I send my second daughter to kindergarten next year, since I am not her bio mom all I could think about was how much my sister (her bio mom) should be the one doing it, how the kindergarten first day of school moment should be for me sister and not me…… It is still a year away and I am already emotional about it, crazy pregnancy hormones! You post was such an encouragement to me, the Lord knows, He has such wonderful plans and he can help me release the pain and sorrow to him, he wants to carry my burden. Thank you for being a continual encouragement to someone you don’t know even far away!ReplyCancel

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  • August 20, 2013 - 11:22 pm

    creole wisdom - Sending you lots of love from Minnesota :)

    You are so right, Christ is our foundation and the only real foundation.

    I read somewhere that grief isn’t linear. I think that’s an excellent description. I look forward to the day where all the wrongs will be made right.

    I remember in your archives somewhere that you said that even though missing Cora during your relative’s graduation was hard, Joel reminded you that Cora has experienced the ultimate graduation and promotion… heaven!

    I know she’s right up there smiling down on you and praying for you as you continue daily life.

    xoReplyCancel

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  • August 21, 2013 - 7:52 am

    Laura - This is, perhaps, one of the most poignant posts you have ever written. I have been a reader since Cora was sick, and rarely comment, but pray behind the scenes. You posses such amazing strength and wisdom. I know you have said that Cora has led many people to Christ, and I agree.. but I feel that your dignity and grace and love of The Lord has led many many people as well. My heart ached all over for you at the thought of what you are missing with Cora, and yet, as a mom of a son I know what you are gaining with the boys. God and Cora are working through Levi and Griffin to share with you His grace and peace as only He can. You are such a blessing to so many and I think you truly have no idea how deep that reaches. What a blessing for your children to be able to look back and see these words and know how deeply they were loved and treasured. Praying for God’s love and comfort to wash over you and Joel.ReplyCancel

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  • August 21, 2013 - 8:03 am

    Sally Morrison - Oh Jess, I’ve been reading your blog since Cora died. I lost my little boy in 2008 and experienced the same milestone this week. You could not have explained the feelings any better – this is one of the most beautiful things you have ever written. Thank you!ReplyCancel

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  • August 21, 2013 - 10:19 am

    kim - Thank you. For sharing your Cora..your family..your faith..your journey..ReplyCancel

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  • August 21, 2013 - 3:54 pm

    Brandi W. - What a beautiful post. I cried while I was reading it. I sometimes question why Carson has mild Autism but I am so lucky that I get hugs and kisses from such a sweet boy and his little Brother. I am lucky that he can talk and some other parents aren’t that lucky. I love that Levi knew just what his Mom needed. What sweet boys you have. Big hugs from NC. I love your blog and how honest you are in your posts.ReplyCancel

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  • August 21, 2013 - 5:48 pm

    Melissa Joy - You are a beautiful example of Christlikeness, Jess, and I am so honored that you share your heart ~ and such sweet glimpses of Cora ~ with us.
    I’ve never met you, but I think of you, and your 3 kids, often. It’s beautiful to see so many aspects of Christ in you; not the least of which are the extremities of joy & sorrow.
    God bless you as you think of your daughter and the milestones that continue coming…ReplyCancel

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  • August 21, 2013 - 7:00 pm

    Tay Pegg - from Australia! - Jess! Your blog is amazing. I’ve been following for years now, and copied your bump photos from when you were pregnant with Levi! Anyway, I love your writing, and I love your faith in Christ in times like this. I often show my Hubby your instagram piccies, and explain how godly and faithful to Him you are. Keep up the good work, you are in inspirationReplyCancel

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  • August 22, 2013 - 11:18 am

    Vera Hall - Jess and Joel,
    I thought of you many times leading up to the first day of school and when I saw those little kindergarteners in the room next door. I even talked to your family members about sending you a note. However, I go busy with school and didn’t get the note written. However, I think of you often and your beautiful Cora. Love you lots!ReplyCancel

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  • August 22, 2013 - 12:57 pm

    Lois - You inspire hundreds with your faith, Jess. Sharing your sorrows and your faith in God helps others with their struggles also. You a truly a woman of great faith and I thank you for inspiring me also to strengthen my relationship with God.ReplyCancel

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  • August 26, 2013 - 12:06 pm

    Sara - My daughter started Kindergarten today, and I sit hear reading this and the sad tears of letting her go are now tears of sadness for you. You are an inspiration and you have shown many others what it is to love and be selfless. Thank you.ReplyCancel

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  • August 29, 2013 - 11:13 am

    tara - Spent last weekend in tears because I was sending my sweet girl to Pre-K. Now, in tears for you. Thank you for the perspective.ReplyCancel

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  • September 20, 2013 - 8:55 pm

    Jody - I have been checking in on your blog occasionally since Cora was sick. I was catching up tonight, and just read your words about missing her as a kindergartener. I just wanted you to know last month when my daughter started kindergarten, I thought of you and your husband when I kissed her goodbye for her first day. I thought of Cora and I remembered that she would have been starting school too, and I said a prayer for all of you.ReplyCancel

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