It Is Well

I have served as the worship leader at Transcend Church for a little over three months now. While I have led worship almost continually over the past 22 years in some capacity, this is the first time I have been “the leader” of a worship team instead of me just playing guitar and singing. This has certainly been a growing experience for me and I am so thankful for the members of the worship team and their talents and hearts for worship.

Few are aware of what goes into choosing a worship set – it’s far more than just picking songs you like. I typically read the Scripture for the upcoming sermon and prayerfully choose songs that go along with the sermon. Yet, sometimes it’s honestly just following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and how I “feel” about a particular song fitting in with the set.

This week was definitely a “feel” week as the passage did not easily lend itself to songs. While I was doing all of this, I considered that this Sunday was Mother’s Day but didn’t give it much thought.

As I leafed through my (gigantic) binder of music, a few jumped out at me, unrelated in theme at first glance – “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” would start the morning as a great reminder that God is trustworthy, merciful, and faithful. We’d do “Even Unto Death” and “Give Me Faith” to remind ourselves that the God we serve is worthy to be followed and trusted, no matter what. I chose a few other songs to fill in the set and thought I was done.

I grabbed my guitar and began playing through the set but it still didn’t feel complete. Later that afternoon the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” – one of my favorites – came into my head and I knew that was what was missing. In addition, I decided to add Bethel’s song “It Is Well” to the end.

If you aren’t aware, the back story to the song “It Is Well” is one of the most powerful I’ve ever heard. Mr. Spafford lost his four daughters in a shipwreck, all at once. Four daughters. And yet, he penned the words to this poem (now song) and declared that it was well with his soul.

How can that be?

I contend that…

It can be well with your soul despite your grief. 

It can be well with your soul despite your circumstances. 

It can be well with your soul despite your questions and uncertainties of God’s actions. 

This can all be true because it isn’t dependent on you – it’s dependent on God. When you believe the truth of who God is (faithful, loving, merciful, kind, generous, good), when you believe His Word and His promises (there IS life after death for those who trust in Jesus!), and when you trust Him fully, there is peace within your soul that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7). We’ve lived it. We know this is true.

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We have a beautiful sign in our home that quotes this hymn, and it has been a great reminder to us as we’ve learned to live without Tori here on earth. We’ve truly learned that “whatever our lot” we can be at peace when we are trusting the Lord and following Him.


As I led worship this morning, the emotion of missing Tori began to well up inside as we sang the final verse of the hymn:

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul!

The emotion was two-fold: first, remembering the tragic circumstances that brought this song into this world and how deep the pain is when you lose a child; second, I long for this day – the day when Jesus returns and we are reunited with our precious Tori (and other loved ones who have gone before us). I cannot wait for that day and for the eternity with her that will follow.

I got through the song, but as the sermon began my eyes were teary as I pondered the joyous reunion that awaits us.


As the Bethel song by the same name says,

Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you.
Through it all, through it all, it is well.
So let go, my soul, and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name.

The same Jesus who calmed the storm that threatened to wreck the ship He and His disciples were on is the same Jesus who lives today and loves us deeply. He is still in control, even when we can’t feel it.

Being well in your soul doesn’t mean that things are perfect, or that you pretend to not be in pain. It simply means that you trust Jesus more than you fear your circumstances.

Yes, my Tori is gone. Yes, my heart longs for her. Even so, it is well with my soul. 

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I don’t know why I was led to put the songs on the set list today that I did, but I know that, if nothing else, my own heart was encouraged by the words of these songs. Hopefully the Lord used them to speak to others, as well.

So, I Got a Job…

As I mentioned before, I recently accepted a part-time position at The Hotel Hershey – more specifically, at The Spa at The Hotel Hershey (where Brennan has worked for 13.5 years and counting). This all came about rather quickly, so I’m still getting used to the idea of working outside of the home, but I know that it will be good for many reasons.

This was my idea. Even on Easter, just hours after Tori went to Heaven, I asked Brennan what I was supposed to do now that she is gone. My “job” as a mom was suddenly null and void, and I was completely unsure of what I should be doing.

Two years ago I left my job (that I loved) to become a stay-at-home mother; I ended up loving my new life more than I had ever imagined. I was so thrilled that I may never have to have a “real job” outside of the home again. I had finally found what I was meant to do.

And then, Krabbe.

Krabbe is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, but in a negative way. I suppose that makes it the gift that keeps on taking.

It took Tori. It is making future children merely a dream. And it took my beloved job from me.

With Tori gone and no more children in our immediate future (yet), I just don’t feel as though I can justify not having a job anymore. I want to help with our finances during this period of waiting to ease the burden from Brennan (even though he has never complained).

I didn’t take the job because I am bored – I’m so far from being bored! I have many things on my plate that require time, but none of them bring money along with them (yet), unfortunately. My book is essentially done, and the book proposal is in process, so maybe that will eventually bring in some extra income, but it’s not a guarantee at all.

This summer was amazing and it was just what I needed: doing photography for CRC, writing/editing for The Transcend Project as well as my own blog and manuscript, serving at Transcend Church, traveling and seeing family, lobbying for Newborn Screening in Pennsylvania occasionally (and next week), and many other things. Doing these things gave me an outlet for my creativity, filling my heart with joy as I was able to serve once again in these capacities. I was able to take some time to do what makes me happy, and I am so thankful for that. All of these things will still happen, of course, even though I have a job – that’s why I only accepted a part-time position 😉

More than anything, though, what my heart longs for is to be a mother again. That’s all. The very thing that so many women take for granted is the thing I want most of all, and it’s so risky (to try naturally) and expensive (IVF or adoption) for us because of our genetics.

So, while we wait on the Lord and trust His timing and guidance, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to get a fun part-time job (2-3 days a week with the option to take on extra shifts) at a place that feels like home with people who have been so supportive of us through everything. And God made all of that happen. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
 Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

If nothing else, this will get me out of the house, allow me to meet interesting people, and provide new topics for my writing 😉 I’m sure that my encounters with guests will be interesting!

In all things, we continue to trust God fully, knowing without a doubt that whatever He has in store for us is amazing. ❤

Sacrificing the Good for the Great

I knew this would happen.

We bought our first home in December 2012 as an investment, knowing that we would fix it up and then sell it and pay off our $50,000 in student loans with the profit.

I did well for the first year or so with not being attached to it. I remembered that it was only a temporary home and that helped me not be attached emotionally.

But, somewhere along the line, it happened. I became attached.

Now that we are so very close to listing our home, I am finding myself feeling sad because I don’t want to leave it. It’s the perfect little home and we (with the amazing help of our friends and family) have made it look so great! We have had so many memories there. It was our first home together. I have lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere since I left my parents’ home. It’s where we lived with Tori. And it’s where we said goodbye.

My mind loves to wander and reminisce, and I try to find ways out of selling it. But, I have to stop and remind myself that we are sacrificing the good for the great.

Our home is good. 

Being debt-free is going to be great. 

I can’t even imagine how amazing it will feel to have $500 extra in our savings account each month instead of it going to student loans. We made a wise investment in this home and we are so close to seeing it pay off. And that feels so good, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

I remind myself that we can always find another home to make our own. Once we are debt-free we can more easily live the life we want to live.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice what’s good in life for what’s great, and it is always worth it, even though it’s difficult. Now if I can just convince myself…

(As a side note, if you’re looking for a beautiful 1,800 sq. ft home in the Colonial Park/Lower Paxton area, let us know!)

Here are a few pictures of the remodeling we’ve done to our home:

Busy Summer and a Much Needed Update

I haven’t blogged much this summer and that has partially been intentional, partially not. Brennan and I have been traveling, working many weekends at MHS, spending time with family and friends, helping with church activities, doing photography for an amazing camp, hosting many RYFO bands, and so much more. We’ve been enjoying life and, though busy, it has been restful and refreshing.

We’re overdue for an update, so here’s what we’ve been up to:

Writing: It has felt good to not pressure myself to write, but to only do so when inspired. I have been writing for a new site that launched in July, as well. Check out The Transcend Project for some great articles about life as a Christian and life in Harrisburg, PA from several different authors. I’ve also been working on my book and the manuscript is almost completed. I have likely found an agent, my book proposal is in process, and we’re still hoping to start pitching the book by October.

The House: Our kitchen is finished and it is stunningly beautiful. We are hoping to list the house by the end of August, which means a lot of work needs to be done in order to be ready for showings (i.e. I need to put my stuff away 😉 ).

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(For those who aren’t aware, we bought our home 3.5 years ago with the intent to flip it and sell it; it was bank-owned so we paid far less for it than it is worth. If we sell the house, we can pay off our student loans – $50,000 – and be debt free. Even though we love our home, we will love being debt free even more, and it will allow us to live life so much more freely than we currently can.)

If you’re looking to buy a home in the Colonial Park/Lower Paxton area, we know of a great one that will soon be for sale! 😉

Children: We so desperately want to be parents again, but there are serious genetic risks if we conceive naturally (Krabbe may be a recessive gene, but it is aggressive and it’s very likely that we’d have another baby with Krabbe). We have some options, but they are all incredibly expensive and we simply can’t afford them at the moment. We’ve had some setbacks in that area and it has been incredibly disappointing. BUT, God is sovereign and we continue to follow Him and trust His timing.

Tori’s headstone was placed around her birthday and it is beautiful:

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Her tree was also planted at The Hershey Gardens:
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Work: As if I need anything else on our plate, after consideration and prayer, I decided that it would be wise to get a part time job since we don’t know when (or if) we will be having more children. I accepted a position today at The Hotel Hershey and will start at the end of August. It will only be 2-3 days per week with the option to pick up additional hours to assist my co-workers, which will still allow me the flexibility I need to continue to write, lobby, do photography, and serve the community with our church.

Newborn Screening: There is another Advisory Panel meeting in two weeks and I will be attending. I will give a full update just like last time.

Brennan is running in the Hershey Half Marathon in October with many other people from our church. He wanted to run the race in Tori’s honor and he is working hard to make this happen. Please pray for his training, that he would build the required endurance and that he would finish the race well.

Please continue to pray for Brennan and I for these things – especially the book (for favor from the publishers), the house (that it sells quickly and for the amount needed to pay off our student loans), and future children (that we can have them).

We are doing well, continuing to praise the Lord for the gift that Tori was, and learning to live life without her by our side. God is good, God is faithful, and God is sovereign.

What Might Have Been

I try not to think about what might have been, cause that was then…

We can’t go back again, there’s no use giving in, and there’s no way to know what might have been.

– Little Texas

It’s so easy to let our minds run away from us and to ponder what might have been instead of what actually is. 

If we aren’t careful, we can make ourselves incredibly sad on days like today – when our Tori would have turned two – instead of celebrating instead that she is healed and with Jesus. 

We could focus on all that she might be doing as a two year old here on earth, or we can imagine her healed, whole, healthy body running around in Heaven where we will see her again (soon, but not quite yet, as Jim Kelly said yesterday).

Brennan and I have learned that you must take control of your thoughts in times like this – not that you can’t grieve, of course, but to not force yourself into sadness simply because you are wondering about what may have been. It doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t benefit you in any way, and it doesn’t bring joy. In fact, it steals joy. 


It’s a choice, just as joy is. You can choose to have a great day or a miserable day based on how you control your thoughts.

So, today, on Tori’s birthday, we are remembering the great times we had with her. We are thinking about what actually happened instead of what could have happened if she had been healthy. 

And our joy is REAL. It is genuine. It is God-given.

We take such joy in knowing that she is running around with Jesus. She breathes normally, her nerves don’t cause pain, and her body is whole. And that is the best possible gift we could receive today ❤️

Thank you, Jesus, for Your peace and joy, and thank you for making us Tori’s parents.

Hospice Butterfly Release

Today, Hospice of Central Pennsylvania held a butterfly release to honor our loved ones who have passed away. Though Brennan had to work, I went to represent our family and to release a butterfly in Tori’s honor.

It was held in a beautiful part of the Capital Area Greenbelt that has been made into a garden – the Five Senses Garden.

Each participant was handed a little white folded triangle that contained a butterfly, eager to escape and fly away. Mine was definitely ready:


We released them in unison and watched them fly away:


I looked around at those gathered and I wondered about each of their situations, hoping that they weren’t there because they, too, had lost a child, but I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

Thank you, Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, for not only caring for our loved ones while they are dying, but also for continuing to so thoughtfully care for those left behind. ❤️

 

 

Even Though…

I love when God speaks to you so clearly through circumstances. If you come across a passage of Scripture once in a day you might read it and then move on. When it appears three times, separately, in three different books/blogs, you pay attention.

Today I was finishing up “Amazed and Confused” by Heather Zempel and began reading “Praying God’s Word” by Beth Moore. In addition to those two books, I read an excellent post by my friend Judy about rejoicing in God no matter what comes our way.

All three of these resources referenced and spoke about the SAME passage of Scripture.

What was the common passage?

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“Even though…”


Habakkuk 3:17-19 is not a new passage to me. It’s one I considered many times throughout our journey with Tori because it absolutely applied to our situation.

Habakkuk is stating that no matter what happens, no matter how hard things become, he would rejoice in the Lord and be joyful. 

Heather Zempel’s commentary on this book of the Bible – and on this passage, specifically – is excellent. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“God is still good, sovereign, and faithful, despite the circumstances we see around us, and is therefore worthy to be praised.” (pg. 153)

“We learned that faith was not about conjuring an idea in our heads and finding ways to fuel it; faith was recognizing that God always had something better in mind than what we could see in the present circumstances. We understood that perspective might not change the facts of our reality, but they certainly changed our perception of reality.” (pg. 156)

Through it all, we trusted (and continue to trust) the God who made us all, who sent His Son because He loves us lavishly, and the One who knows what the future holds.

“What’s the difference between people who face the unknown and see fear and those who see opportunity? What makes a person look at a dead-end and see open-ended possibilities? Story. The story we have been told will set the stage for what we expect in the next chapter and will inform us of the role we play.” (pg. 157)

“When Habakkuk came to a place where God’s actions collided with his expectations, he found the only hopeful response was worship that was rooted in an unshakable and undeniable awareness of God’s character, ways, and works.” (pg. 160)

“As we see God more, we are able to praise Him more. We more clearly recognize and acknowledge the hand of God at work in our lives, and the practice becomes an act of worship and a hymnal for worship in days to come.” (pg. 164)

“Habakkuk is not just comforting himself by playing with ideas; he is speaking of the things that God has actually done. The Christian faith is solidly based upon facts, not ideas. And if the facts recorded in the Bible are not true, then I have no hope or comfort. For we are not saved by ideas; but by facts, by events.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (quoted on pg. 169)

“This brand of faith knows God can…believes He will…but worships even if He doesn’t.” (pg. 177)

“We can frame the character of God according to our circumstances, or we can frame our circumstances according to what we know of the character of God. We can let our circumstances inform what we know to be true of God or we can let what we know to be true about God inform our circumstances. As Warren Wiersbe said, “God doesn’t always chance the circumstances, but He can change us to meet the circumstances. That’s what it means to live by faith.”‘ (pg. 178-9)

God continually reminded the Israelites of the importance of remembering all that He had done for them, and yet they continued to forget. When they weren’t studying His word and their history, they lost sight of God’s goodness and plan and they strayed from His will.

As we said at the beginning of our journey, God has never been unfaithful to us, so why would He be unfaithful now? Because we have reminded ourselves for years of His wonderful works since the beginning of time and of those in our own lives, trusting Him with Tori came fairly easily.

“He works things together for His purpose and not our expectations.” (pg. 184)

“Whether He delivers from, delivers through, or delivers later, we know that He is always present.” (pg. 186)

‘His faith was not rooted in what he could see but in what he could not see in the moment. He anchored into the brand of faith that the author of Hebrews described: “Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen” (Hebrews 11:1).’ (pg. 186)

Oh yeah, and Hebrews 11:1 (quoted above) was also the verse of the day on WordFM today so I heard it many times throughout my day.

“Sovereignty means that God is in charge. Eternally in charge. We need God to redefine our suffering against the background of eternity because eternity puts things into perspective.” (pg. 188)

When things don’t go as we had planned, do we run from God or run TO God? Why is it so easy for us to discard our faith just because things get tough? Why don’t we trust His proven faithfulness to be present in our own lives?

“I refuse to let what I don’t know keep me from worshiping what I do know.”
(pg. 190)

(I know it seems like I just quoted the entire book but I promise there is so much more wisdom to be gleaned – you should read it!)

This final quote is a great summary of our perspective on Tori’s short life.

We KNOW that there is ONE true God. We know that God is sovereign, that He is good and loving and gracious. We KNOW that there is a Heaven waiting for those who believe in Jesus and that this life is only the beginning. We are certain of these things!

We DON’T know why God chose us to be Tori’s parents, why He chose her to have Krabbe, and why He didn’t choose to heal her on earth so that she could grow up under our care. We don’t know what the future holds for us in regards to having more children. We don’t know. But, as the quote above says, we aren’t going to let these few unknowns keep us from serving and praising the One who does know!

We know that He has a plan for us and that Tori is waiting for us in Heaven. Whether or not God chooses to reveal to us His thoughts on this situation here or if we will find out in Heaven, it is still well with our souls.

Our faith isn’t blind, and it isn’t a band-aid. Our faith is the frame through which we view this entire life and it’s the source of our joy and our peace, and it’s the reason why we continue to praise God and choose joy “even though” we lost our only child. 

After all, our loss doesn’t change God’s character or His purposes for us. He is STILL good.