You might remember that a few years ago we had the opportunity to attend David and Nancy Guthrie’s Respite Retreat. It was such an emotional weekend but played a huge role in the healing process for us. You can read a little more about that weekend here and here.
Fast forward to this past weekend and we were back in Nashville for another retreat. This time it was a reunion.
On our way to the clubhouse the first evening Joel and I were marveling at the different place we were at this time around. Our first Respite Retreat was eight months after Cora died. We thought we might be a little crazy flying to Nashville to spend the weekend with other grieving parents we had never met, but we knew we needed something. I was pregnant with Levi but we didn’t know he was a boy. We both were convinced he was another girl. Our house was still horribly quiet. Our hearts were still totally broken and the tears were still constantly flowing. Every day. We were still trying to make sense of God’s character in context of our tragedy. We were clinging to God as our Great Comforter but still confused by what He was allowing to happen in our lives. I remember being so thankful to be with people who just “got it”, people I could be real with.
While our hearts continue to ache, the Lord has been so faithfully redeeming our story and healing our brokenness. Thank you, Lord, for your work in our lives. Thank you, Lord, for the place you’ve brought us to today. It is by Your sufficient grace alone that we are still standing.
We spent most of our time in this room talking about God’s sovereignty, prayer, fear, our kids, heaven and so much more. We heard each others stories, laughed together, cried together, worshiped together, talked about areas we’ve grown in and areas we still need to grow.
We studied God’s Word together and talked about how we filter out lies from Truth. I learned so much and came away with a renewed passion for being in the Word and a whole new list of books I want to read.
I started reading the book Wild Things on our way to Nashville. I read some aloud to Joel (he loves when I do that) and we were laughing so hard at the chapter describing the 2-4 year old stage. The stories and examples were stories we are living out in our house right now. I haven’t finished the book but it is so good so far. I didn’t put it together that one of the authors, David Thomas, would be speaking at the retreat. He was so encouraging and gave us so much to think about as we parent our boys. It was a timely reminder of what a privilege it is to be a parent. He also brought along several other books that he and his colleagues wrote that might be next on my reading list.
Wild Things (if you have boys you need to read this one!), Raising Girls (the boy version of Wild Things), Raising Boys & Girls (there is a DVD that goes with this one that you can use with a Bible study or small group), Intentional Parenting (this is the one I’m reading next!)
David and Nancy fed us lots of yummy food while we were there too. Saturday night they set up tables on the porch with flowers, candles and balloons. It was so nice to have time to just sit around and talk. I learned so much from these people too!
During dinner we each wrote on a balloon and then after dinner released all the balloons together. Each balloon represented a dearly loved child. It was a surrender to the Lord…releasing our precious children, whom we long to still be here with us, into His hands.
We sat at a table with Peter and Sarah on our first night at the retreat. Their sweet daughter, Annie, died from cancer when she was six months old. Our stories, though very different, had lots of similarities. We felt like we had been friends for years and were so thankful for their encouragement to us. We are trying to get them to move to Kansas now! Too bad Kansas doesn’t have a little more appeal.
I first “met” Deb through email. She wrote me when her son, Nathan, died suddenly. I remember reading her words and feeling so burdened for her…I had been in that place too. It is such a blessing to be able to use the things that God comforted us with during our sorrow to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I remember as I was writing just praying that the Lord would use something I wrote to comfort this lady whom I had never met. Deb told me that she remembers that I told her to cling to Jesus…and that is what she did. Praise the Lord! It was such a blessing to meet you Deb!
And Nancy…it is hard to even describe to you how much this lady means to me. Through her books and the Respite Retreat she guided me to stand firm on Truth during the darkest days of my life. Her dedication to and passion for teaching God’s Word, constantly bringing people back to Truth in the midst of incredible loss, is a daily challenge to me. She is so real. Just like you would expect her to be after reading her books. And she is lots of fun too! Joel told her as we were taking this picture that I am one of her groupies. If there is anyone that I could be like when I grow up it is Nancy. You have to read her books if you haven’t already. Everything she writes is great!
The One Year Book of Hope (this was the first book I read by Nancy…I give it to everyone I know!), Holding onto Hope (a challenging journey through the book of Job), Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow (this book encourages you to allow Jesus to speak into the many questions that come with sorrow), Abundant Life Day Book (I started this daily devotional at the beginning of the year and have loved it too!)
It is hard to share just four because all of Nancy’s books are so good. She also has a new Bible study series out…the first study is called The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis. I need to find time to do these too!
Thank you for the wonderful weekend, David and Nancy. We came away feeling refreshed, comforted, inspired by God’s Word and challenged in so many ways. The work God is doing in and through you is a blessing to so, so many…including us!
If you have lost a child I highly recommend attending David and Nancy’s Respite Retreat. I know it is a little scary to think about going to Nashville to spend the weekend with other grieving parents you have never met, but you won’t regret it. David and Nancy are great. Go check it out…and feel free to email me if you have any questions.
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One last thing…
A reader recently wrote and let me know about some friends of hers that need our encouragement. Sam and Jason lost their daughter, Alice, a few weeks ago. Baby Alice was born still in the arms of Jesus just two weeks shy of her due date. They were so looking forward to becoming parents. Sam and Jason’s friends have created a website that many generous Etsy vendors have donated to. They are hoping that this will raise some money to help cover the costs of medical expenses and the unexpected bills that come with losing a child.
Are you needing a gift? Maybe something for Mother’s Day? You can give a gift and support this sweet, hurting family all at the same time. Go here to visit Alice’s shop. They are adding new items every day. Praying for you guys as you miss your precious daughter.
disclosure: amazon affiliate links used