Wow...it's been a long time since our last update...almost a month. We've had a lot on our hearts to share, but we've been very busy getting back into our "new normal" life. After being out of the mainstream of busy-ness for a year, it's been quite a change to jump back into all our activites. Bethany has been keeping us very busy with her school and extracurricular activities, we're back to work and all that that entails, and we've been blessed with opportunities to share what God has been doing in our lives through Hannah's story. The last two Sundays we've shared at Sulphur Springs Missionary Baptist Church here in Magnet Cove and at LifePoint Church in Ozark, Missouri. It's been wonderful to meet so many people who have been touched by Hannah's story. It was also a blessing to be back in our home church this Easter morning to celebrate our risen Savior!
We will be on the road again for the next three Sundays--we are scheduled to share at Athens Missionary Baptist Church in Umpire, Arkansas, on April 19th, at Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on April 26th, and at a church in Jackson, Mississippi, (sorry, I don't know the name of the church!) on May 3rd. We are so thankful that God has allowed us these opportunities to share His goodness and faithfulness. One of the blessings we've received over the past several weeks is meeting and talking with other Christian families who have "lost" children. There seems to be an immediate bond that forms between families who have gone through this experience...and it is always an encouragement to talk to other moms and dads who have been where we are right now. As one dad put it in an email to us, "The hole will always be there, but the edges will become less sharp."
We've, of course, spent a lot of time this Easter weekend thinking about Hannah and Heaven. We spent some time this weekend at Briggsville, Arkansas, where Brad's family has a deer camp and tree farm, and where Hannah is buried. This was my first time to visit her grave since her burial, and it was a very difficult and emotional experience for me. Even though I fully believe that her physical body was just a shell, it is that physical body that, as a mom, I cared for for seventeen years. As we drove away, though, I felt as though I could almost hear her saying (as she did so many times over the last few months of her life), "Stop crying...I am just fine!" And she is!
We were given a book while we were at the hospice center called "Holding On To Hope", written by Nancy Guthrie. It was actually given to us anonymously...it was dropped off at the front desk, along with a financial gift and a card signed only with the initials "plc". Thank you, "plc"! It's a book about a family who lost two babies to a metabolic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome. There were many things in this book that spoke to me, and I've got page corners turned down, sticky notes in it, underlined sections, etc. Mrs. Guthrie states that before she lost her first child, she never really understood how people seemed to find so much comfort in knowing that their loved one is in Heaven, but that she does now. In fact, she says this, "I have come to the place where I believe a yearning for Heaven is one of the purposes and one of the privileges of suffering and of losing someone you love." Wow...a privilege!
Isaiah 57:1-2 says this: "The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For the godly who die will rest in peace." We did not want Hannah to leave us so early. We would have liked to see her graduate from high school, go to college, and get married. We would have loved for her to mother our grandchildren someday. But there is a lot of pain and evil in this world, and it is not a tragedy that she will be spared any further suffering in this life, and instead is in the presence of God. Mrs. Guthrie states, and we can attest to this, that even though we believe this to be true, we may not always feel this way....but our belief does make a difference in how we feel. Our task is to trust and obey...even if we don't know exactly how all the pieces fit together...and to remain faithful to His call on our lives.
This Easter, we rejoice that our Savior is risen...because He lives, Hannah does, too. And He is good, all the time!
Brad, Jill & Bethany