Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday -- Six Years in Heaven

Thanks to the absolutely beautiful snowfall we had yesterday, I've been able to enjoy a quiet day at home, remembering our girl who went to Heaven six years ago today.  It was a great opportunity to reflect, remember, and revel in the wonderful memories we have with our Hannah Joy.

My overwhelming feeling today at this six year mark is gratitude.  Gratitude that God chose me to be Hannah's mother; gratitude that we had 17 1/2 amazing years with her; gratitude that she is perfectly healed in Heaven today.

I spent the day posting my favorite photos from Hannah's life on my Facebook page.  I tried to post them at regular intervals throughout the day so I wouldn't totally gum up people's newsfeeds with them.  How fun it was to share these pictures and re-live some of my favorite memories with our girl.
As I shared these pictures, though, I found myself keenly aware of the moms and dads who did not have the blessing of so much time with their children.  Through While We're Waiting, we've had the opportunity to meet many parents who never had the opportunity to make the kind of memories we have with Hannah, and my heart breaks for them.  We were so blessed to have the time we had with Hannah.

As I thought about Hannah and all those we've met whose children have left "too soon", I remembered a book that Hannah "wrote" back when she was in junior high.  This was a project of her GT class, and is an autobiography, complete with photographs.

She drew the cover picture, which is a bell (her grandma always called her "Hannah Bell").  Clearly, she got her artistic ability from me!  ;-)  I love the words she uses to describe herself ..."joyful", "optimistic", "sweet", "Christian", "caring". She couldn't have been more correct in her choice of words.  The first page put a lump in my throat: "Dedicated to My Amazing Family". She begins with a chapter called "Before Me", in which she states that we were so ecstatic when she was born that we gave her the middle name "Joy", which is true! That chapter is followed by a chapter for each year of her life. It was so much fun reading all of these chapters, and looking at all the photographs she included. The one that really got to me though was the final chapter, which was titled "My Future Possibilities", and reads as follows:

"As I think about the future, I get so excited because I know my future is bright. I love to think about what is to come, and I do constantly. I plan to graduate high school with a 4.0 and at the top of my class. Then, I would like to enroll in Ouachita Baptist University with a full or almost full paid scholarship, and study elementary education to become an elementary teacher. I'd graduate with a bachelor's degree from OBU, and then go somewhere for my master's degree in teaching. I would hope to be married by the time I graduated college, so I would settle down in a small town in Arkansas and start a family (and teach). When I'm old enough to retire, I will probably move closer to where my grandkids live so I could be close to them and watch them grow up. I want to live a long, happy, healthy and content life that I can look back on someday and be proud of. And maybe someday I'll read this book and I'll think, "Wow, I did just that!""

The first time I read this paragraph after Hannah's death, especially the last part, it felt like a punch in the stomach. It literally left me almost breathless for a few minutes. How can someone so excited and full of plans for the future just be gone? How can her innocent desire for a long and healthy life be so unfulfilled?

And God had to gently remind me of something I already know. As we talk to grieving parents, one of the things we talk about is God's sovereignty...the fact that He is in control in and through every situation. As Hannah's illness progressed and it became apparent that, without a miracle, she would be leaving us for Heaven, we felt that we were being called to submit to His will for her life and for ours. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans that I have for you,...plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." Hannah's future was in His hands...she had her own plans, we had our plans for her...but God had a better plan. What seemed to be a calamity to us was the best thing that ever happened to her!

I found this quote the other day:

Death is God's way of saying, "Your table is ready."  Hannah's table was ready at the age of 17.

Barbara Johnson in "Pack Up Your Gloomees in a Great Big Box, Then Sit on the Lid and Laugh" says this: "There is a finality to death that is inescapable. You can't go around it, over it, or through it. All you can do is negotiate--not for a reversal that could bring your loved one back, because there is none. Instead, you plead for some kind of understanding, some way to make sense of it all as you try to get through it, allowing your grief to take its course and let the pain eventually drain away."

We will never completely understand why Hannah's wish for a long and healthy life was unfulfilled on this earth, but she also said that she wanted to be able to look back on her life someday and be proud of it. I think that if she could see the lives that have been touched through her relatively short life (and I think maybe she can in Heaven), she would be proud.

Thank you for sharing in our life, and hers, by reading these posts, and praying for our family all these years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

While We're Waiting Wednesday

I suppose that an update on the While We're Waiting ministry to bereaved parents is long overdue.  Honestly, we've been so busy keeping up with the day-to-day activities of the WWW ministry, the blog has taken a back seat!  Thankfully, we've had a string of snow days this week so I've got some time this evening to sit down and write for a few minutes.

There are far too many things going on with this ministry to share in a blog post, so I will just share about two of the most recent events.

This past weekend we hosted our largest parents' retreat ever at Spring Valley Anglers Rod & Gun Club in northwest Arkansas.  There were eleven families represented, one couple driving all the way from Toledo, Ohio, to participate in the weekend!  I think they get the prize for coming the farthest for a While We're Waiting event.  What an amazing weekend we had together!  Our stories were all very different, but we were quickly bonded together by our love for both our children and our Lord.

As always, the story is best told in pictures.  Spring Valley Anglers is a beautiful place ...

Set on the banks of crystal-clear Spavinaw Creek ...

During their free time, parents were able to enjoy the peace and beauty of their surroundings ...

Our sessions were filled with rich conversation ...

We talked about our beautiful children ...

Ate A LOT of delicious food ...

And made friendships that will last a lifetime.

Let me share what a few of them had to say at the end of the weekend ...

"To be honest, I was dreading this weekend and sharing our story.  But immediately I felt welcomed and at home.  Friendships were made that I will treasure for the rest of my life.  My husband and I highly recommend this retreat for parents suffering a loss.  What a blessing we received!!"  ~Dustin's mom

"This weekend has been so good for us as a couple.  We struggle to talk about our son with each other.  I was helped as well as my husband.  Thank you!"  ~Joshua's mom

"The WWW Weekend for Parents has touched our hearts greatly.  We came very timid and left forever bonded in our hearts with so many beautiful parents on this journey."  ~Eliana's mom and dad

"We feel incredibly blessed to have experienced this weekend with this group of amazing people."  ~Sophia's mom and dad

"We were very nervous about attending the While We're Waiting Weekend retreat, opening up our deepest hurt in front of strangers.  It was an absolute blessing to attend!  The support of everyone, laughter as well as tears, blessed us and took all our nervousness away.  We are so grateful for you and your ministry."  ~Colby's mom and dad

Now for Part Two of this post ...

We took the first big step today toward the building of the While We're Waiting Refuge, a retreat center designed specifically to meet the needs of bereaved parents.  Fifty acres on the outskirts of Hot Springs has been donated to the ministry for this project.  There is an existing older home on the property, which we will be completely renovating, including the addition of ten hotel-style guest rooms.  

We met with an architect out at the property a few weeks ago and talked through some ideas.  This morning we met with him again and he showed us the plans he has drawn up for this facility.  We were so excited to finally see something on paper!!

You can see the existing home in the lighter print with all the additions coming off of both sides.  This will meet our needs perfectly!  A concept drawing from the architect will be available soon, and I will share it here when it's available.  

Why are we even considering a building project like this when we can go to places like Spring Valley Anglers and Family Farm Christian Day Camp?  Because our events are filling up months in advance, and we cannot get these venues as often as we would like to in order to meet the need.  Our next retreat coming up in April has been completely booked for months, and the one we have planned for November is already nearly full.  It's important for us to keep our groups small to promote the intimacy of our discussion, so we would like to have events more often with smaller groups. (This past weekend's event was our maximum size group.)  We also offer our events at no charge to the parents to attend.  Having our own venue would help us control our costs, so we can continue to do that.

We've committed to building this facility without incurring any debt ... which means we're planning to raise all of the funds upfront.  We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ministry, so all donations are tax deductible.  If you are aware of any individuals or corporations who may be looking for a worthy project to donate to, please send them our way!  :-)  And if you would like to partner financially, even in a very small way, with this ministry, you may make a donation online by clicking here.  And of course, we'd love your prayer support as we seek to follow God's leadership in this ministry.  Thank you!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Mourning -- #nationwidefail

Well, it's been a looooong time since I've written here, hasn't it?  There's really no reason for that, other than I've just been very busy!  Not the kind of busy that I used to be when Bethany was still at home, running from basketball game, to track meet, to softball field, but busy nonetheless.  My busy-ness these days is due to the rapid growth of the While We're Waiting ministry, which I'll discuss in another post.  It's a good kind of busy, but the blog is what seems to take the back burner these days.

bht_nationwide_super_bowl_ad_js_150201_16x9_992.jpg (992×558)But after last night's Super Bowl commercial for Nationwide Insurance, I just had to squeeze in a few minutes to write my thoughts this evening.  Did you see it?  It features a little boy, and sucks you right in with cuteness.  The kid is talking about all the things he's not going to have the opportunity to do, like learn to ride a bike, get "cooties" when a girl kisses him on the bus, travel with his best friend, or get married.  Then he says he won't get to do all these things because he's dead due to a household accident.  The ad then shows a very full bathtub, an open cabinet under the kitchen sink, and a large television which has fallen over, presumably on a small child, and informs us that preventable accidents are the leading cause of death in children.

For a few moments, my mind couldn't even process what I had seen.  Did I misunderstand something?  Did I really hear what I thought I heard coming out of that kid's mouth?  Surely not!  No reputable company could possibly be that insensitive to families who may have experienced the loss of a child!  I could literally feel my heart break into a thousand tiny pieces as I knew the pain this commercial would stir up in the hearts of so many.  I  had trouble sleeping last night and the icky feelings brought up by this commercial have stuck with me all day today.

Here are a few of my random thoughts ...

I don't need to be reminded (during the Superbowl, of all times!) of all the experiences I'm missing out on with Hannah.  Yes, I got to see her learn to ride a bike, but I didn't have the opportunity to see her go to college with her best friend, and I will never celebrate at her wedding.  Shoot, I can't even watch the Super Bowl with her.  I have not forgotten that I'll never experience these things with her.  I live with that knowledge every day.

BUT, these are experiences I'M missing out on ... Hannah is not missing out on a thing!  That poor, pathetic kid in the commercial (what parent would agree to have their child play that role?) made it appear that because he was dead, he was missing all the fun stuff.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I also didn't need to be reminded that children die, often in what the world calls "accidents."  Because of my role in the While We're Waiting ministry, I literally spend hours every day interacting with parents who have lost children.  Sometimes I think I have heard every possible horrific way a child can lose his or her life.  Believe me, it gets heavy.

BUT, I believe with all that is in me that God is sovereign, and that He has appointed the number of days each of us will live before we are born.  Psalm 139:16 says, "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  And Job 14:5 says, "A person's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed."  Therefore, the word "accident" seems to be misapplied here.  The 17-year-old son of one of our WWW board members drowned in six feet of water a little over a year ago.  This dad does not refer to what happened as an "accident", but rather the "incident" by which his son was taken to Heaven.

My daughter did not die from an "accident", but from cancer.  And even in that situation, Satan still whispers in my ear from time to time that it's somehow my fault that she is no longer here with us ... If only we'd discovered her tumor sooner, or gone to a different hospital, or tried a different treatment, or had more faith, etc., etc.  Satan is the father of lies, and I don't know a single bereaved parent who is not engaged in a daily battle with him.  This commercial, which referred to "preventable accidents" plays right into his hand.  Who's supposed to prevent them, if not the parents?  I've talked to so many parents who are so heavily burdened by guilt, they can hardly breathe.

BUT, the power of life and death is not in our hands.  As a parent, there is nothing I could have done to extend Hannah's life even one day past February 26, 2009.  If it wasn't brain cancer that took her to Heaven, it might have been one of those "preventable accidents."  God's purpose for Hannah was fulfilled in the number of days He gave her. I will NOT listen to the lies of Satan and accept any responsibility for her death.

Nationwide has issued a statement saying that this ad was not an attempt to sell insurance, but rather to bring awareness to the issue of child safety.  Eh.  Maybe.  If it was an attempt to sell insurance, it was clearly an epic fail, as I've seen a number of people today stating that they'll NEVER do business with Nationwide ... and I would include myself in that number.

BUT, here's the thing ... It doesn't matter who you buy your insurance from, no amount of insurance can prevent your death or guarantee you an eternity in Heaven when you die.  We can try to create our own insurance by going to church, or being a good neighbor, or donating money to worthy causes ... but unless we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, that stuff means absolutely nothing.

If this commercial causes you to seriously consider where you're going to spend eternity, then maybe it wasn't such a failure after all.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Mourning -- Not Because of How We Feel

Many of you know that the While We're Waiting ministry hosts a Facebook page.  Actually, we host two Facebook pages -- a public one, which we encourage anyone who is interested in this ministry to "like" and follow -- and a private one, with membership limited just to parents who have lost a child.

Something amazing has been going on on that private page this month.

While the rest of Facebook has been filled with posts from people doing their obligatory "30 Days of Thanks" during the month of November ... stating their thankfulness for everything from the health of their children to the fact that the lines at Wal-Mart were short on that particular day ... the members of the "While We're Waiting -- Support for Bereaved Parents" page have been sharing the things they're grateful for as well.

And the list has been nothing short of astounding.  And humbling.

The fact that these statements of thanks come from hearts which have been crushed into pieces make them all the more precious.  I believe that they are a sweet aroma to the Lord, made all the sweeter by the sacrifice required to see these things as gifts from Him.

Here is just a peek into this amazing list.  These parents are thankful:

  • for the fog of grief that helped them survive the initial days, weeks, and months after their child's death
  • that their child is no longer suffering from physical illness, addiction, or mental illness; or for those who died young, that they never experienced heartache
  • that they already had appropriate clothing to wear to the funeral; or that they had friends who helped "dress them"
  • for their dog, who forced them to get outside every day for walks
  • for the opportunity to be transparent and authentic with their surviving children
  • for co-workers who did not expect them to be "back to normal" right away
  • that their son had not had a haircut recently so they could save a lock of his hair
  • for people who opened their homes so extended family had a place to stay around the time of the funeral
  • for items they found after their child's death with their child's handwriting on them
  • for a friend who brought their son a birthday cake after his death 
  • for a friend who brought toilet paper to their home
  • that their child died in their own backyard
  • that their child died doing something he or she loved
  • that they were able to hold their child as she took her last breaths
  • for supportive teachers and administrators at their child's school
  • for friends who organized pictures, details, etc., for their child's funeral
  • for their child's salvation
  • that their child's death makes the need for a Savior so very real
  • for people who began a relationship with Jesus or renewed that relationship because of their child's death
  • that their last words to their child were, "I love you."

Not exactly the typical "What I'm Thankful For" list we often hear at this time of year.

The picture above, from Ann Voskamp, perfectly captures what is happening here.  These parents are thankful to God, not because of how they feel, but because of Who He is.  I've made that picture my Facebook profile picture this month, just to remind myself of the truth of it.

Many of these precious folks also expressed thankfulness for the While We're Waiting ministry, and I can't tell you how humble and grateful that makes me feel.  WWW is a gift God has given us as part of our healing process after Hannah's homegoing, and we feel privileged that He has entrusted us with it.  

May we always be thankful to God for Who He is, and not because of how we feel.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

While We're Waiting Wednesday -- WWW Retreat for Bereaved Parents

Once again, God did above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine at our While We're Waiting Retreat for Bereaved Parents this past weekend!  Two of our couples had to cancel at the last minute, but we still had a wonderful group of moms and dads.  What a blessing it was to hear the stories of their precious children ... something we consider a sacred privilege.

As always, the story is best told through pictures.

Family Farm is beautiful any time of the year, but I especially love it in the fall.

It just so happened that the infamous polar vortex, bringing record cold temperatures to Arkansas, coincided with our weekend together.  There was literally frost on the pumpkin on Saturday morning!

We didn't spend as much time outside as we usually do, thanks to the unseasonable chill, but we did visit the animals ...

And a few brave folks took a trip down Slide Mountain ...

But we spent most of our time inside by the cozy fireplace.  Discussing issues faced by bereaved parents ...

Sharing the stories of our precious kids ...

And, of course, eating lots of good food prepared by our awesome chef ...

One of the highlights of the weekend, and a first for our While We're Waiting Weekend, took place on Saturday evening.  After dinner we went outside and launched sky lanterns. We talked about how these lanterns were flat and lifeless when we took them out of the packages, kind of like our lives when we are grieving. But, as the warmth of the flame filled them, they began to rise and give light for all to see. We discussed how we wanted to live our lives as lights in the world, in honor of both our children and our Lord.  It was a very special time.

We wrapped up this event on Sunday morning with a time of praise and worship, along with an object lesson to help us remember some of the things we discussed over the course of the weekend.

And this group of folks, who were complete strangers to one another on Friday evening, left as close friends, bound together by our love for our children and for our Savior.

Can't wait for our next While We're Waiting Weekend!

Our While We're Waiting Weekends for Bereaved Parents are offered at no cost to the attendees.  If you're interested in attending one of these events, please click here for more information.  Or, if you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation to While We're Waiting so that we can continue to offer events like this, please click here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

While We're Waiting Wednesday -- An Update!

It's been awhile since I've posted an updated on the While We're Waiting ministry ... so I'm going to take advantage of a quiet evening at home to try to catch you up.

There's been a lot going on!  We continue to host retreat events for bereaved parents every few months ... some here in Arkansas, and some on the road.  Our most recent parents' weekend was in Wichita Falls, Texas, and we were blessed to meet some wonderful moms and dads there.  We were so grateful to Ron and Kathleen Duncan, who opened their home to our group for that event.  We have two more "on the road" parents' weekends on the schedule, one in northwest Arkansas in February, which is already completely booked, and one in Madison, Mississippi, in June.

We have Mini-Retreats for Bereaved Moms on the calendar in January, March, and June.  January and March are already full, but we have a few openings left for our June 27th date.  We've got a Dads' Weekend scheduled for the last weekend in April, and the guys are really looking forward to that event.

We will be kicking off a Parents' Weekend at our "home" site, Family Farm, in just ten days.  This event has been completely booked for several months now, and there are moms and dads from six different states who will be in attendance.  We cannot wait to meet these parents and hear their children's stories.

Attendance at our monthly support group meetings continues to increase each month.  It's hard to say that that's a good thing, because we sincerely wish there was no need for a group like this, but since there is, we are grateful that God chooses to use WWW in this way.

And since January of 2014, we've mailed 128 Hope Packages to recently-bereaved parents.  Truly a labor of love.

But here's what we're most excited about!!!

For some time now, we've felt God calling us to build a facility which will be dedicated to serving bereaved parents through these While We're Waiting events.  Our desire has been to create a comfortable, safe, warm, home-like lodge where parents who have lost children can gather, with no need to wear a "mask", knowing that they are surrounded by those who understand.  A place where hurting moms and dads can be pointed to our one true source of hope, Jesus Christ.  A refuge, where we can encourage each other to live well while we're waiting to be reunited with our children in Heaven.

Fifty acres with an older home at the edge of Hot Springs is being donated to the While We're Waiting ministry, and that will be the site of the While We're Waiting Refuge.  It's out in the country, surrounded by acres and acres of thoroughbred farms.  Brad and Larry have been spending some of their Saturdays clearing the property ...

Can you picture a "While We're Waiting Refuge" sign hanging here at the entrance?  :-)

And just this past week, we had a drawing done of what the inside of the lodge is going to look like ...

I don't know if you can tell much from this drawing, but if you look closely, you can see the existing house at the top, with an extension drawn toward the bottom of the page which includes six 16'x16' bedrooms, each with a closet and private bath.  The driveway comes up from the bottom of the picture and curves around, circling a separate building which will have four more of these 16'x16' bedrooms.  There will be a vaulted roof area connecting the main lodge to those four bedrooms, and the driveway will go under it so folks will have a covered area in which to unload.  If you look back up to the top of the drawing, you'll see a large meeting room drawn in, which will overlook the rolling hills and pond on that part of the property.  We are having a concept drawing done now, and I can't wait to see it!

All these wonderful things require funds, and God is faithfully providing.  Our events are offered at no cost to the participants (although donations are accepted), so all of our funding comes solely from gifts and contributions.  Little by little, we've watched God grow our bank account, and we are so grateful.  

We are committed to building this facility without incurring any debt, so we are praying for more supporters who will come alongside and assist us financially (and/or physically!) with this project.  We've recently updated the donation page on our While We're Waiting website to make it easier to partner with us.  You can now choose the amount you'd like to donate, and even sign up to make a recurring donation if you choose to.  You can specify if you'd like to make your donation in memory or in honor of someone, and we'll even send a card to notify that person or that person's family of your donation if you'd like for us to do so.  It's completely secure, and because we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, all donations are tax deductible.  We'll send you a receipt for the IRS at the end of the year.  Click here to go straight to our donation page if you'd like to be a part of this project.  

So ... Now you're all caught up on the While We're Waiting ministry.  I'm going to try to make "While We're Waiting Wednesdays" a regular feature on this blog, so if you're interested in following what God is doing in WWW, be sure to check in from time to time.  I hope to be posting a ground-breaking picture soon!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Mourning -- When Your Soul Hurts

It's October.  Almost the 22nd of October, in fact.  A day that I once anticipated with great joy ... the day I met this little beauty.  She was induced, so I knew when I woke up that Tuesday morning 23 years ago (Did I really sleep the night before? I don't think so!) I would finally get to see our baby for the first time.  To add to the anticipation, we did not know if this baby was going to be a girl or a boy ... something almost unheard of these days!

I remember the doctor exclaiming, "It's a girl!"  Such a joy flooded my soul.  I had only brothers growing up.  I knew nothing about raising girls ... but I was thrilled, nonetheless.

From that day on, October 22nd was a day to look forward to.  Carefully selecting birthday presents, lovingly wrapping them, anticipating her excitement as she opened them.  Choosing a theme for her birthday party, making (or usually buying, ha!) her a cake, sending invitations to her friends.  Watching her grow from a baby to a toddler, a toddler to a child, a child to an awkward pre-teen, an awkward pre-teen to a beautiful young lady.  October 22nd was a joyful mile marker, a date to celebrate another year of our precious girl's life.

On October 22, 2008, Hannah turned 16 ... truly a milestone birthday!  Her gift that year was a bright red Mazda Protege'.  It was a hand-me-down from me, but that didn't matter to her.  She was thrilled!  She drove it around proudly for about four months before she was diagnosed with cancer.  The effects of brain surgery and radiation made her unable to drive and she surrendered her keys without a word of complaint.

Hannah's 17th birthday came around about three weeks after we found out that her cancer had returned with a vengeance.  Three weeks after her doctor, with tears in his eyes, told us that she had less than a five percent chance of survival.  And two days before she lost every strand of her thick, curly hair.  That was a tough birthday.  How do you celebrate your child's birthday, knowing that unless God does a miracle, it will be her last?  Somehow He gave us the grace to get through that day and the months that followed.

Hannah's 18th birthday came around eight months after she went to Heaven.  Oh, how I dreaded that day!  I really don't remember much about it, but I know that Brad, Bethany, and I went to her grave and covered it with rose petals.  I also made a Mississippi Mud Cake, which had become Hannah's annual birthday request once she outgrew the Barney and Barbie cakes.  Over the past several years, those two things have become a tradition on her birthday.  Not exactly the way we envisioned marking October 22nd for the rest of our lives.

That brings us to this week ... the week Hannah would be turning 23.  Twenty-three?  Twenty-three is a grown woman, a college graduate, someone who is starting a career, possibly married, maybe even with a new baby in her arms. It's so hard to see a 23-year-old woman standing in the place of the 17-year-old girl who left us.

I'm not going to lie.  Weeks like this are tough ... even though this will be Hannah's sixth birthday in Heaven.  My heart hurts.  My soul hurts.  Especially when I contrast these October 22nds with the October 22nds of the past.

In Psalm 42, the psalmist writes these words ...

3 "My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng."

Even as he weeps, he remembers how he used to shout with joy and praise while he participated in festivities.

Just like our family used to get so much joy from celebrating our girl on October 22nd, a day that is now marked by tears.

But, thankfully, he doesn't stop there.  In the very next verse he says this ...

5 "Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God."

Did you catch that?  The psalmist talks to himself!  Well, actually, he talks to his soul ... and he reminds it that there's really no reason to be downcast and disturbed.  He reminds it (and us) that we need to put our hope in God, and that even though our heart and soul are hurting, we can still praise Him.  Truly a sacrifice of praise.

My parents always told me it wasn't nice to "talk back" when I was growing up, and we taught our girls the same thing.  But you know what?  This week, when my soul tells me I should be downcast and disturbed because I'll be visiting Hannah's grave on her birthday, instead of celebrating with her in person, I'm going to talk back to it.  I'm going to tell it where my hope is, and that that I'm going to choose to praise my God.  Because He is my Savior, and He was Hannah's Savior, I will spend eternity celebrating October 22nds with her!  Truly a reason to rejoice, even on those days when my soul hurts.