Say Yes

I’ve been reflecting today a lot on the last 6 months—how we’ve loved and lost, how we’ve come up against obstacles, how fast change has been enacted in our lives, how doors have opened, how others have closed, how one chapter has ended while a new one is beginning, how prayers we’ve been praying for so long occur in a moment, a blink of an eye and we got what we asked for. A blink of an eye and we’re on a new path. A blink of an eye and suddenly we see so much clearer things we’ve never seen before. Or maybe we’ve seen them, but retreated in fear. No more.

A new path could be worrisome because we’re not really fans of unpredictability, but we embrace it because we trust the Trailguide. He promises adventure.

There’s a quote that says, “It doesn’t matter where you’re going. It’s who you have beside you.” True…A new path doesn’t seem daunting when you embrace it with the one you love. When the team is solid. United. And working toward a common goal together. But, I think it’s better said, “It doesn’t matter where you’re going when you know Who’s in front of you, Who’s beside you, and Who’s behind you. Just say yes.”

I praise You, God, for moving our mountain! I praise You for giving Leslee and I the grace and power to please You through Jesus! I praise You for giving us Your strength in our struggles so we’re more solid than ever in our love for each other and our faith in You! And I praise You for everything else You’re about to do even though I can’t see it. I simply say yes. Let it be, Lord. Let it be.28378910_10156444720881435_1641743548690420011_n

Growth and Gratitude in the Worst Year of My Life


A new year. I enter it markedly different. I suppose we all do, but after a year like 2017, I feel like I’ve been carved into a very different person. The worst year of your life will do that to you. It hadn’t just been awful since the end of August. No…January began and train wreck after train wreck. Storm after storm. (In April, literally.) Challenge after challenge. There were so many prayers answered “yes.” One big one answered “no.” And so many still up in the air. It occurs to me to be thankful that I have so many things to pray for and about. The ones that He quickly answers give me hope for the ones He’s silent on. The answered ones keep me going when He says no. And even His big no was only a “Not right now…” A painful, deferred yes that I both ache for and anticipate with great joy.

I spent a LOT of time on my knees in 2017 praying for change—and the thing that changed the most was me. God worked some miracles for me and He also brought me to the end of myself so many times I can’t even count. Every strength wasn’t strong enough. Every weakness seemed to be laid bare. Every place in which I relied on myself—even unconsciously—was no longer reliable. Distractions no longer distracted. My efforts to plant dreams or make plans were completely uprooted to the point where I felt paralyzed to even dream or make plans. There was literally nothing I could control.

And I think that was the point. I AM is God of your life, Breauna, not you. I heard that loud and clear.

So, I spent a lot of time also asking God, “What do you want from me? What am I not seeing here? I’m begging you for blessing, Father, and I trust you, so I know there’s a reason You’re not honoring my requests. What do you want from me?” Not in a frustrated way…in a willing one.

“You. I want you,” is what I started to understand. “I want you to seek Me because you just want to be where I am. I want you to seek me simply to draw close. To understand and know Me. You remember how you were when you were a child? In some ways, you need to go back. Let go of control. Let go of thinking you are in any way in charge of your life. Let go of expectation. Let go of your own ideas of what you think a blessed life is and be present in the blessed life I’ve placed you in. I want your gratitude.”

“But you have it, Lord! I am grateful!”

Not when I bless you and then you’re on to your next request. Achieve one, move to the next. Open your eyes, daughter. I AM everywhere. I want you to see My favor in your life in spite of the challenges, storms, and disappointments. An easy, comfortable life does not equal a blessed one. An easy, comfortable life does not mean you have My favor. When you were a child, it was just you and Me. You had dreams, but no expectations. No comparisons. No notions of what a “happy” life was supposed to be like. You just lived. My pleasure in you and love for you was not based on my action. It was simply based on your belief that I AM what I say I AM.

Trust Me.”

As water poured out of my eyes in my closet, living water was carving riverbeds in my soul. 2017 was an exponential growth year. I grew…because I shrunk. The paradox of moving forward on my journey was all in the setbacks. I needed to revert to mature. I needed to decrease so He could increase. It’s ironic to me that my whole mantra since moving to a little dairy out in the middle of nowhere was “Bloom where you are planted.” I now see God’s motive was “Make a whole new flower.” Your struggles, challenges, setbacks, etc. are not the pain of the executioner’s whip, my daughter. My no’s and my silence are not punishment. Nor are they you somehow missing the road signs or messing up My plans. You, dearheart, are not that powerful. You’re simply impatient. In the meantime, I’m  using my scalpel to fix a few things. I’ve got Your life in my hands. You’ve seen Me in action on your behalf enough to know that. Trust me with it.

I do, Father. I am trusting You. And thank You.

It took me 11 months to stop praying for the things I wanted and start simply asking God to bless me with the things He wanted me to have. To open my eyes to those things when they came. To open my eyes to Him everywhere. To feel Him. To see Him. To experience Him. To be completely fulfilled in all things Him. I sat down with my Bible simply to read—with full faith that if He wanted to me to know something specific, I would end up there at the perfect time. And I told Him I would try my best not to bring my own requests for material or physical blessing, but simply humbly accept what He saw fit to give and cherish with gratitude everything I had. Not because it’s wrong to ask for those things, but because I wanted to put my trust into action. It’s been tough! I’ve had to overhaul some habits and do some major mindset work—or maybe I can’t even take credit for that as my own strength. All good that I do is Him.

Last month, a friend gave me an idea that I prayed about weeks. A word. I simply wanted a word. Something to hang onto as I entered 2018. I prayed for it. Waiting. Watching. A day or two later—the word “prepare” was jumping off book pages. It was everywhere I looked. It was a broken record in my head. I looked up. Is that you, Lord? Is that Your word? I timidly asked because it had a positive feeling with it, a hopeful connotation, and I’ll admit to being afraid I was intercepting it wrong. Afraid of getting my hopes up.  Things expectations are made of. And yet, this word would not leave me alone. Prepare.

Weeks went by. I kept my eye out for a different word. A different message. I’ll admit I’m still doing it. I just don’t want to get it wrong. And yet, this pesky prepare is still here.

Prepare…prepare for what?

I’m not sure…the only thing I can be sure of is that change is always certain.

Prepare for change? Is that it? At this point, I feel like I’m prepared for anything. Having no expectations will do that to a person. Anything can happen. I simply have to roll with it, which completely goes against pride and my own self-accomplishment.

There’s a sense, for me, that prepare was an apt word for 2017. Brace yourself, Breauna. This is going to be a long, dark, bumpy ride. Major growing pains around the next bin.

And yet, here we are in 2018, with this positive, hopeful “prepare.” What was He preparing me for in 2017? And not just me…but Leslee, as well? I’m reminded of Jacob after wrestling with God. Leslee and I can relate to walking with a limp. We come limping into 2018, but with newfound strength, as well. And  humble, grateful hands wide open for whatever the Lord wants to give.

And the word is… “prepare.”

Day 2-3: Walking On in the Ugly Beautiful Bitter Sweet

The sun went down on our first day home and pain blindsided me in a moment I didn’t expect. You might wonder how it blindsided me when it had been the only constant, but some happy moments were even sadder than the sorrowful ones. I glanced outside as the sun went down to see Leslee pushing our girls on the swings.


It was a sweet moment, but I felt the bitter start to build inside me. He was smiling, they were giggling…laughing, and I was having a hard time with the image of happiness this scene was portraying. It was surreal…standing there fully aware that this was my life and yet I was so far removed from it. In my mind, I was wherever Leif was. That’s where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be witnessing a happy family. I didn’t belong there.

I remember a conversation I had with my mom before I left the hospital. A conversation about how life goes on in spite of you. I told her I didn’t know how in the world I was going to move forward. That I had no desire to. I can’t remember everything she said, but one line stuck with me. “That’s the hard, but somewhat merciful thing about life…Whether we want to move forward or not, as life moves forward, it tends to drag us along with it.”


I stood there looking out the window and realized this was one of those moments. This beautiful, ugly, golden, bitter moment where I first experienced that she was right. I was going to be dragged along whether I liked it or not. It was happening as I stood there. My family was going to drag me along.  I might as well find the beauty over the ugly. The sweet over the bitter. I got my camera. It occurred to me that I might want to remember this. This…the moment  life started to move on. The moment life looked like nothing horrible had happened to us.  A normal, happy family playing in the yard.

I saw Leslee pushing the girls and I wanted to embrace his strength. This was a joy-filled moment. For him. I was sincerely thankful for that. He found solace in two little girls. I took pictures. Someday, we’ll all get back to this, right, Father? I have to believe that.


My head hit the pillow that night and I passed out. But not before I cried some more. For as I had gone to turn out the light under our cabinets, there lay the pacifiers I had bought last week.


I woke up the next morning feeling a lot more rested. A little stronger. I moved through the fog that surrounded me and prayed a thousand prayers. Every moment, I need You. I need You. Give me the strength to get out of this bed. Give me the strength to make breakfast. Give me the strength to plan my son’s funeral today. Let me feel you, Lord. Heal my broken heart. Give Leif a hug and a kiss from me (I love you, sweet boy). I need You. Please comfort me.

If my own prayers weren’t enough, I was covered.  In prayers and love. I could feel it. A warm embrace. Prayers went up…the Lord’s presence intensified. So tangibly. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced and it’s difficult to put into words. He was there…through a loving, specific, well-timed word from Leslee. Through a heart-felt message from friends or family.  Through hugs. Through generosity. Through meals. Through His Word. Through tears. Lots and lots of tears. When I broke down, He carried. When I leaned into the pain and the flood broke forth, His strength could handle the storm. When I whispered, He whispered back.

However, that day was a hard day. We met with the funeral home and made the arrangements for Leif’s service. I sat there and could hardly speak. I was grateful that Leslee did all the talking. We wanted a little handout for people to have at the service. I was frustrated that I didn’t have full control over the design, the font, the colors, the EVERYTHING about it. Amidst my gratitude that the funeral home was willing to do an infant service for very little cost, it worried me that it might not be our idea of perfect. I just wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted to control the details because I couldn’t control anything else.

And then I found out I had to write the obituary. I guess I assumed they would have kind of a fill-in-the-blank template for us.  Yeah, something mindless would be best for me right now. I don’t want to think. However, in my current state, I’m certain I would have wanted to hijack that, too. I needed something to give me purpose. Something to throw myself into. I couldn’t be pleased. And the responsibility of writing my baby’s obituary left me feeling overwhelmed.

The ride home was long. There was silence, but feelings and thoughts filled the car.  I stared up out the window, blue sky, white cotton clouds, trying to draw near to those heights. Trying to lose myself…hear God…find my son. Tears were ready and then Leslee grabbed my hand and squeezed intuitively.

“What are you thinking right now?”

Floodgates opened as I turned my head to look at him. “I miss my son!” I wailed. As I cried, he squeezed harder and continued to hold on as tears brimmed in his own eyes. No words were necessary. He missed him, too. His generosity in asking me time and time again to share my thoughts was not lost on me. Giving me permission to unload on him is what he’s always done, but it’s easier to hear when you’re not in it. When you’re not the one unpacking the baggage. We were sharing a suitcase on this journey.

“I love you, Breauna. I miss him, too.” A phrase he uttered countless times never grew old. It grounded me.

When we arrived home, he went to take care of some chores and I sat down at my computer, wrote the first line of Leif’s obituary, and sobbed. I wrote another line and had to stop because I couldn’t even see the screen. Another line. And another…until I had reached 8 lines that I absolutely hated. If ever anger presented itself, it was in that moment. I was angry at myself for not being able to articulate what I wanted to say about my baby. A baby I had only known through little kicks and twists and rolls in my belly. A baby that knew me so much better than I knew him…or would ever get the chance to.   I should have been able to DO this, but it sounded so flat. I looked up and said, “Father, You’re going to have to help me with this. Give me inspiration. Give me the words. I need You.”


I decided to leave it for a while. Walk away and put it off. I needed to message a friend and tell her I was using her poem in the ceremony. Little did I know she would help me finish the hard part of his obituary with her response. Her words were perfect.  Yet again, and as always… there He was.



I finished up my chores and went for a little drive around the farm to clear my head. I had gotten upset upon arriving at the funeral home to find my son was still at the hospital. I beat myself up. I should have brought him there myself. I left him thinking they would pick him up that day. He spent another night at the hospital alone. The thought cut me to the core. I know I was somewhat irrational, but just because he wasn’t living didn’t make me any less his parent. It didn’t make me love or care for him any less. It’s not a switch I can turn off. The funeral director assured me someone was on their way to get him as we spoke, but I was visibly frazzled. These woods and hills brought me peace.

I decided checking my cameras would be a nice distraction. I enjoy tracking the deer population on the farm, hunting sheds…hunting, period. I like to watch the little bucks grow and ponder what they might mature into. I had had my eye on one in particular. I had watched him grow. I had held onto his sheds. He was on my list. I loved how symmetrical he was. The best way I can explain it…He was just my kind of deer. And we had a history. He was stealthy, though, which made him even more of a challenge.

I drove up to one of my cameras, scrolled through a few photos, and there he was. Front and center. His face and his antlers filled the screen. Yes! I thought. What day was this?


I looked down and it suddenly hit me. 8/27/17. I’ll admit I’ve always been more a believer in coincidence when it comes to details. Small things. This feeling that washed over me was more up Breauna’s alley. I always just kind of grinned and let her tell me a story about details she saw God’s hand in and thought, Well, maybe…But I’ve never felt or experienced anything like that personally.

God wasn’t going to let me write this one off. There stood my special buck—the one I’d hardly talked to anyone about—on my camera on the day we said hello and goodbye to our son. The photo sent a message straight through me. I know you. I know all of the little details. Things you don’t share with everyone. And I know this moment because I know this buck is special to you. Hear Me: It’s going to be ok. If this photo says anything to you, let it be this. If I can work about this tiny thing that speaks volumes to you, I can work about the big things. Start trusting I do indeed speak and work in the details.

I hopped in my side-by-side and ran home to show Breauna my picture and the date. She would know. She would understand what it meant to me and I understood her even better now. I had a story—an encounter of my own—about how God reaches us and how very resourceful He is.

I named the buck Leif’s Buck. Never had I wanted to see a deer live so bad in my life. As long as he stayed on the farm, he was safe. And that day was a turning point for me. God had my back and all the little details in between. He orchestrated them and there was a peaceful blessing in being able to see. I simply had to put the right glasses on when I scrolled through the camera.

It’s A Wonderful Life


11/25/17 – Our Thanksgiving was a blessed one. It wasn’t stressful, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the road, and somehow we managed to see a lot of family AND take a cute photo for our Christmas cards over the course of two days.

Leslee and I were doing good. Great, actually.  Our focus was on the present…not the past…not the future.

The past is now something I don’t want to talk about. Saying that makes me feel a little guilty, but in my mind, it has nothing to do with Leif, and everything to do with choosing joy. Choosing healing. Choosing to continue on this path the Lord has me on in cooperation with His will rather than dwelling on what mine was.

The future is always uncertain. So, the day I have is mine to enjoy. One good family photo was all I needed, so we sat for it and my mind was on making sure the girls were doing what they were supposed to be doing while I was still maintaining a smile.

We got up and started back for the house when sadness snuck up on me. Our family photo was missing a person. I should have had my little guy in my arms. My arms were empty. And this photo on my camera looked as if nothing had ever happened.

Inhale, exhale. Get it together, Breauna. I had actually been avoiding family photos to avoid this feeling. However, Luxe wasn’t a part of any of our family pictures to date, so I took the opportunity I had on this one.

We walked in the house and the girls were a blessed distraction as they bustled around trying to put play clothes on and go their separate ways with other family members. I sat at my desk in the silence and touched up a few things on the photo. The next task was perusing the different holiday cards for the perfect one.

I scrolled and scrolled thinking, Meh, not right for us….too many picture slots…too much pizzazz…etc. I wanted something very simple. At the very end of all the card choices, I found it. Just the right one. It was a simple family photo card and across the bottom it said, “It’s a wonderful life.”

I sat there and pondered that for a bit. I overanalyzed what people might think of me–with my empty arms—sitting there on a card that says it’s a wonderful life. The enemy was in my ear. “Is it a wonderful life, Breauna? Really…for you? I’m pretty sure a person wouldn’t call losing a child a wonderful life…”

No…no, they wouldn’t. But, that still didn’t define everything that this family in the photo was…or is. Losing Leif didn’t make the people or the pieces that still remained any less wonderful. It didn’t make me any less full of wonder when I thought about how this life had been specifically orchestrated for each of us by a Master Conductor.  How each day was another piece of the puzzle that I was certain was going to be wonderful when I got to see it all put together and finished.

It is a wonderful life, I firmly declared and went about setting our photo in that card, all the while still feeling melancholy.

Leslee walked in from doing chores and peeked around the bedroom door.

“Whatcha doing?” he casually asked.

“Oh, trying to get our Christmas cards ordered…It’s got me in a little bit of a funk.”

“Oh, yeah? Why’s that?” he asked.

“Well, I look at it and I can’t help thinking about what it’s missing…”

“I totally hear that. I was thinking about that earlier,” he replied.

“But…,” I looked up at him, tear-filled eyes, as he looked at the proof of our Christmas card, and said, “it’s still a wonderful life…right?”

“Oh, babe…absolutely,” he emphatically replied. He circled the three girls in the photo with his finger and said, “There ain’t nothin about this that isn’t wonderful. I look at the three of you and think, ‘Man! How did I ever get so blessed?!’ It is a wonderful life. Send that one. That’s the card.”

I guess all I needed was his corroboration to bolster my own belief. It’s interesting how choosing a simple Christmas card made me question my truth, but it wasn’t even about me, really. It was about me looking at my life from the outside–the tragedy of it–and wondering if someone would question God. What kind of God gives someone a baby and allows it to die? And how in the world is that woman still calling her life wonderful? She’s delusional. She’s out of her ever-loving mind!

See, that’s the point that I can’t explain to my own humanness. It defies understanding…this peace. This wonder that still remains. This joy. The wholehearted belief that God is still so good. It’s impossible to wrap a mind around.

Which brings me back to the card. It’s a wonderful life…when the Lord is in it. A wonderful life. Full of Him. Full of  wonder.


Leaving the Hospital & Returning Home, Day 2

A new morning brought new mercies. Leslee’s best friend, Aaron, called and took our coffee order. He arrived shortly after and entertained us with hilarious stories revolving around his job as a firefighter. Even amidst sitting there in a hospital bed, I was distracted and it was nice. Laughing felt good. My mom arrived later and we all simply sat around and visited, continuing to laugh at Aaron’s stories.

After he left, I got into the shower, preparing to leave. A hot shower was another mercy…although seeing my naked, post-pregnancy body brought more tears, reminding me of what I didn’t have.  I stepped out of the shower, had the courage to look in the mirror, and immediately regretted that decision. I had never looked so awful. I slowly put my clothes on, threw my hair on top of my head, and exited the bathroom.

“She’s a new womaaannn!” my mom sang operatically. I gave her a generous smirk as she grinned. We bustled around the room trying to get our things together. I was ready to go home, but I wasn’t. How was I going to do this?

Our sweet nurse, Mary, had come in earlier that morning and Leslee told her he had made the arrangements for Leif to be picked up. She hesitantly asked, “So, are you ready for me to take him?” No, never. We nodded our heads.


Leaving the hospital was tough. Although I could have walked out of there on my own two legs, it’s hospital procedure to wheel you out.

As Mary was lifting the breaks on the wheelchair, she softly said, “I hate this part. Let me just say before we open this door that there are people out there laughing, smiling, going on with daily life that have no idea what you’re going through right now. And it’s hard to see that.”

She came around in front of me. “But, I’m right here with you and we got this. I’m going to make this as fast as I can and Leslee’s going to meet you at the other end of the hall.” Mary and I were leaving through nurse access. Leslee and my mom had to exit a different way.

“You ready?” she asked.  I nodded.  I quickly found out what she meant about hating this part. She wheeled me out with my 3-d mold of Leif’s feet in my lap and I immediately felt like a spectacle because that’s all I was carrying. No baby. No bundle of joy. Just a light blue mold of precious little feet. At that moment, I realized what a gut-wrenching scene I was. I could see it like a movie. I kept my head down. For a reason I couldn’t comprehend, I felt shame. I felt conspicuous. I looked up once as a nurse moved aside and heartbreak was all over her face. Note to self: Don’t look at anyone. I couldn’t get to Leslee and Mom fast enough. And I couldn’t get out of this wheelchair fast enough, either. It was ripping any semblance of dignity I wanted to maintain to shreds.

Before I knew it, Leslee and Mom were walking beside us and we moved toward the entrance to the hospital where people were bustling around getting coffee and pastries from the little coffeeshop, talking and laughing around tables. A woman was carrying what looked like a newborn and I had to remind myself–again– not to look at anyone. Put your blinders on, Breauna. Just look straight ahead. If only people would stay out of my line of vision…

Leslee pulled around with the car and we loaded our things–and me– into the car. Mary gave me a hug and stood at my window.

“You’re at the top of my prayer list, Breauna. It was so nice meeting you and your family even though I wish with all my heart the circumstances had been different. You seem to have a wonderful support system. And maybe I’ll see you again someday. Something tells me I will. I really hope a rainbow baby is in your future.”

She had no way of knowing how much that was on my mind and how much guilt that brought me at the same time. There was no way anything or anyone could replace Leif, but my momma heart longed for something tangible. Longed for the fruits of the labor I had gone through and loved for the last 9 months.

As we drove away, I watched Mary get smaller with the distance. She stood there and watched us drive away, holding her arms, until I couldn’t see her anymore. I turned to Leslee. “I can’t help but think about nurses and how much I admire them right now. We know we weren’t Mary’s only patients. She was going into other rooms with parents that were joyful and then coming into our room where there was only grief…and she does that as part of her job all the time. That’s a lot of compartmentalization!”

He blew out a breath. “Yeah…”

“And then she wheels a grieving mother out to her car and says goodbye with no closure,” I continued. “She has no idea if she’s ever going to see that woman again. That woman she connected with and grieved with. Cried with. She has no idea if that couple will ever have a happy ending.”

He shook his head. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around how they do it. It definitely takes a special kind of person,” he replied.

We determined then that Mary deserved to know that we saw her amidst what we were going through. Although I didn’t know her last name, I wrote her a special note and delivered it to labor and delivery weeks later. I walked up to the receptionist, an older, somewhat cranky-looking lady, and told her I had something for a nurse named Mary, but I didn’t know her last name. She looked at me, puzzled.

“You probably have several nurses named Mary, don’t you?” I asked.

“No…” she replied. “I’m just trying to place Mary, but I have it. ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary.'”

It was as if she couldn’t understand why Mary would be getting a thank you note. It was my turn to be a little puzzled. I had seen her bark at another nurse right after my labor, but I didn’t realize she had a nickname.

My experience of her had only been empathy, love, and care…so I was especially glad I had written that note in that moment. Even “contrary” people are used by the Lord–and Mary had been a part of His hands and feet during our stay. Maybe my card would make her day.

God bless Mary, Mary, quite contrary.


I was dreading the drive home because I didn’t want to go there. Anywhere but there. Anywhere but where his sweetly decorated room was. Anywhere other than the place where life returned to normal. I didn’t want normal. I wanted my son.

We drove home in virtual silence—the only connection being our hands. And our grief. Before we had left the city, Leslee stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some very tight sports bras for me. I had been told by the hospital staff that this would be the best thing for me in the days to come when my milk came in. Just another painful reminder that I had no baby to feed. He offered to run in there and look for them himself, intuitively knowing that I wouldn’t be able to handle a cashier asking me when my baby was due. I still looked pregnant and it would be an innocent question that I couldn’t handle. I let him—all the while knowing shopping for the right sports bra might be a smidge uncomfortable for him, but being so thankful for his sensitivity and understanding.

We decided to grab a bite to eat on our way out of town. My best friend, Maddi, met us at the restaurant. She had texted  me earlier saying she had something for me. She arrived and handed me a Helzberg Diamonds box. I opened the lid and couldn’t hold back the tears. I had never looked up the August birthstone. I had always fully believed he would be here in September. There lay a bright, beautiful lime-green jewel surrounded by a border of sparkling diamonds.

Amidst tears, I turned to her and said, “Maddi, I don’t know what to say. I love it. It’s perfect. Thank you so much…I’ll treasure this forever.” I asked her to help me put it on and remembered a quote I had read somewhere: The most precious jewels a mother can wear around her neck are the arms of her children.  Even though I wouldn’t get to experience that with Leif, this beautiful necklace felt like the next best thing. It brought me comfort. And I thanked God for my friend’s thoughtful heart.

As we got closer to home, feelings of dread grew heavier. I wanted to see my girls, but… I couldn’t imagine going on. Normal was never going to be normal again. Didn’t “normal” know I had a huge hole in me now?

We pulled up to the house and no one was there. I breathed a little sigh of relief. In that moment, I wasn’t ready to face anyone. Facing my house was hard enough. It was full of all things Leif. And I was empty.

I walked in the door to a tidier house than I had left. But, not too tidy. Leslee’s mother and my dad’s wife, Mandy, had straightened up a little. The door to Leif’s room was shut and there were piles of laundry next to the washer. Never in my life had I been so thankful for laundry or little messes to clean up. It gave me something to do. Something to distract me for a little bit while I subconsciously processed that even this small act of loading the washer was doing something normal.

As I stood there sorting clothes, I couldn’t help but notice the light shining from the bottom of Leif’s bedroom door. Even though I wanted no part of that room, I kept feeling compelled to look at that door. That door wouldn’t leave me alone. It refused to let me ignore it. Conversations with myself ran rampant in my mind.

Go in there.

No, no, no, I can’t. It’s too hard.

Go in there.

This is crazy talk. That room will set me over the edge.

Go in there.

 It’s too soon.

Go in there. You can do it. Face that pain head on. You’re not afraid to feel it.

I don’t have to push myself today. Maybe tomorrow.

Go in there.

Leslee continued to bring things in from the car and I tried to focus on other things.  Our bedroom felt like a safe place. We lay on the bed and just held each other…something we couldn’t do easily in a hospital bed. We talked—processing out loud how we were both feeling about returning home. Going backwards to the day prior. Thinking forward to what lie ahead. Trying to pick up the pieces one word at a time. And we cried while we comforted each other.

Leslee glanced at the necklace Maddi had given me and said, “What was that jewel called again?”

“I think she said peridot,” I replied.

“I’m going to look it up. I’ve never heard of that before…see where it comes from and what it’s made of.”

A short time later, I was crying again. The peridot gem is a jewel of strength and protection. Not only were those things I had prayed over my baby son, but I needed them now. It felt like tangible validation that—yes, God had heard my prayers for Leif—and yes, he was strong in Heaven now. Protected while being a protector himself. Leif’s jewel was a jewel around my neck. A hug from my son. A sign that he was everything I had ever prayed for him. And I fully believed that God had used Maddi’s thoughtfulness as an instrument to give me a gift from Himself, as well. A promise that His strength would be with me. A token to show His protection covered my family.

We went to get the girls from my dad’s house up the road a little later. As we walked down the hallway, there that door stood, Leif’s door,  looming. Leslee turned to me and asked, “Do you want to go in there together?” “No…not yet,” I said.

Later that evening, I went to change Luxe’s diaper and realized all her diapers were in Leif’s room. Leslee offered to go in there …he said he could do it. But,  I just couldn’t let myself watch him go in there alone, so we opened the door together and walked in. It’s interesting how the Lord forces you to make  moves in life–dares you to at first, and then orchestrates details that leave no other choice. I stood in his room and I didn’t cry at all. I had done something hard. And all I felt was peace, comfort, and love.

I turned to Leslee. “Do you feel that?”

He lips curved gently into almost a smile. Eyes sparkled. “Yeah,” he said.