The Macs

Monday, November 2, 2009

what defines you?

More from the retreat...

There are so many things that I heard last weekend that keep running through my mind. I feel like I have jumped back into the busyness of "normal" life and haven't had time to process everything. I didn't take any notes at the retreat, so I have been trying to write down a few things I want to remember. This one thing has really stuck with me:

I don't want grief to define who I am.
I want Christ to define who I am.

What defines you? Isn't it so true that we often let our circumstances define who we are?

The hole that Cora left in my life when she died is a huge part of who I am. It always will be. Grief is a raw, hard thing. It is something that I have to face everyday now. But, do I want it to dominate my life?

We laughed with this group about how so often you feel like you are walking around wearing this big blinking sign that says, "MY CHILD DIED". It is like a warning when you are approaching and it creates so much awkwardness. If you are happy you feel like people think you are fine and ready to move on. If you are sad you feel like you are a burden to everyone around you.

Joel and I talked during the retreat about how we don't want to let grief control our lives, our family, or our relationships. While there will still be those days when we are so sad that we would rather pull the covers over our heads than face another day, we don't want grief to define who we are. We want people to look at our lives and see Christ. We want Christ to be glorified, even in our grief. We want our lives to be defined by Him.

It is easy to say that, right? It is so much harder to live out. I went away from this weekend realizing there are no easy answers. There is no quick fix to my grief. Not even at a conference for grieving parents. But what I did realize is that I need to be constantly filling the hole that Cora left in my life with Christ. Studying His Word and learning to know Him better. IN HIM is the only place that I am going to find true comfort and answers to my questions as I grieve. And as I spend time with Him and allow Him to overcome even my deepest sorrows, I am allowing Christ to define who I am. That is what I want people to see in me.

Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat--I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how.
Luke 9:23-24 (The Message)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You both are so strong. I have been following your blog for many months... since before your precious Cora took her place in Heaven with the Lord. Let me tell you, your light shines so bright, it's almost blinding! I know I can always come here for inspiration and hope, and I just wanted to thank you for sharing your love of Christ through your storm.
PS. Congrats on your baby news! It's apparent you've got one seriously blessed bun in the oven to have you two as parents! ;)
Warmest Regards, Nichole in Tulsa

November 2, 2009 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger The Prosper Russells said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 2, 2009 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger The Prosper Russells said...

Beautifully Written ~ still pray for you daily. In Him , Wendy Frisco TX

November 2, 2009 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

What a beautifully written post, Jess, and how very true. Although I've not experienced the loss that you have, I can relate to wanting Christ to define me. Thank you for that reminder. Praying for you as always...

November 2, 2009 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Trasie Bressler said...

You both amazing me and I admire your faith in the ONE that created us so much. What an amazing walk you have with him and I long to have that as I grow in him daily.

Many Many Blessings,

November 2, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow! That is so insightful. Thank you so much for sharing what you've learned from the retreat, Jess. How is Baby Mac doing?

November 2, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

Jess and Joel-
Sometimes I don't know what to say because your story breaks my heart. It has from the moment I heard Cora was in the hospital. I spent countless hours then and now praying for your family and trying to understand all of it as well. I know we were never that close, but small town schools make you "friends" in a different way.
Anyway yesterday I attended Judgment House at my church and when we got to the Heaven scene their was this sweet, beautiful, happy, bouncy little girl singing and dancing with Jesus and through my tears I saw Cora. How wonderful it must be up there for her, but so sad down here for you. I hope that this message brings you comfort. And know you are STILL very much in my heart and prayers!!!

November 2, 2009 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I see Christ in you. That's what made the biggest impact on me from the moment I I heard of your family. You, Joel and the rest of your family show that Christ is at the center of your lives. I saw that every moment I got to spend with you guys while in Kansas.

November 2, 2009 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Trisha Larson said...


I'm pretty much at the same place as you with my grief. Nate's death will always be a part of who I am but I don't want to live a life full of grief. I want to live the life that God intended for me. I want to make Him proud and defy the expectations that Mommy's who have to bury a child become sad, depressed and bitter people for the rest of their lives. I want to enjoy my life. I want to feel happy. I'm fighting for it so hard.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. It's healing for me to see people struggling on the same path. It's nice to know that I'm not alone.


November 2, 2009 at 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are such an inspiration..


November 2, 2009 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

maybe that's why you are such a joy and blessing to be around...because I DO see Christ in all you do and say. I am so blessed by you every single day. You are making it, and you are doing it in a way that is causing the Lord to look down and say "well done, Jess, well done". I am so proud of you, so proud to call you my friend.

November 2, 2009 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Bri!!! said...

Awesome! Since going through this miscarriage, I found an amazing talk that has helped me. I think you would enjoy it. I love the analogy. It's linked on my blog, but here is the direct address.,5232,23-1-646-11,00.html

November 2, 2009 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Beki - TheRustedChain said...

I remember talking to you about this on the phone one day. When a person becomes "the lady who lost the baby".... You don't WANT it to be your sole identity! But it's such a huge part of who you are.

And in that way, a small town is a blessing and a curse. You couldn't ask for a more loving and caring community. But there is very little annonymity too. I'd imagine sometimes you just want to go to WalMart without that big glaring sign around you neck that screams to everyone...

If anyone can adjust their identity to point to God, it's YOU. You are a shining reflection of Him every single day.

November 2, 2009 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Mandy said...

i admire your strength so much. this was a beautifully written post.

November 2, 2009 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger deyoungsters said...

Your faith is so beautiful, Jess. I'm always encouraged and challenged when I come to your blog. I keep you guys in my prayers!

November 2, 2009 at 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Courtney said...

Very well said. I'm sorry you are in this situation and I wish it would go away and Cora would be here with you again. After your child goes to Heaven life is never the same. It doesn't get easier ever it just becomes your new normal. I will never understand what it is like to have my family complete but I can truly say that "my heart is full." I know you too will have a very full heart.

Courtney Mayfield

November 2, 2009 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

"We want Christ to be glorified, even in our grief." Jess, even though I know this is a daily struggle for you all it is so plain to see in your posts. You are an inspiration to others to let Christ define our lives.

November 2, 2009 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I can only pray I have 1/2 the faith & hope that you guys have...your blog is a reflection of how you walk DAILY with our God, and it amazes me!
Keep writing!

November 2, 2009 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Lacie and Stephen said...

This is a post that hits so close to home for me! My husband made the comment the other day that it seems like our time is now measured in BBB and ABB (Before Babe B. and After Babe B.) instead of BC (Before Christ) and AD. It may seem off topic, but it is just an illustration of how we get caught up so much in our grief that the Christ part becomes less evident.

Lacie Hutchins
Wichita, KS

November 2, 2009 at 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have modeled that for so many of us. When we don't know what to say. When we don't know what to do. We see Christ in you and know you are well protected.

November 2, 2009 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Tricia said...

Your strength and faith through this most difficult time continues to amaze and encourage me.
Thank you for continuing to share this journey with all of us. Christ IS shining through you both. Even when you feel like you're struggling. We can see him.

Thank you. Blessings to you.

With love and prayers,

November 2, 2009 at 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Carla said...

Powerful post. Thinking of you and Joel often, hugs

November 2, 2009 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Juliann said...

Thanks, Jess. Your reflections are an encouragement to me, and also a conviction - not to let circumstances define me. I really fall into that every day. I continue to pray for you and your husband. May God's grace cover you.

November 2, 2009 at 2:23 PM  
Anonymous thezipfs said...

Wow, Jess! Thank you so much for your post...I really needed to hear that today! Lately, I have found myself saying that when my house is messy, my life, my mind, and my heart is messy. I knew my logic behind that thought was sooo not what Christ wanted me to be thinking. In other words, I was letting my circumstances around me define me...I WANT CHRIST TO DEFINE ME! You have a way with words that teach me (and so many others). THANK YOU! We are always praying for you and Joel and love and miss you guys so much!
Love, Kim Zipf

November 2, 2009 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

You are an encouragement to many more than you even realize. Thanks for your strength and trust in the Lord. What a blessing you are! Our family prays for yours often, though we have never met. God is good, ALL THE TIME!!!

November 2, 2009 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always blessed as I read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing your journey! Bob

November 2, 2009 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Marla Taviano said...

Oh my goodness, Jess. This was such a blessing post!! Thank you for sharing! Love and hugs!

November 2, 2009 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing what you have been learning, it helps me to put things into a new way to look at life.

November 2, 2009 at 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Nancy Guthrie said...

Beautiful Jess — I'm loving reading your lingering thoughts from our weekend together, and I'm holding you close in my heart.

P.S. tell that big guy of yours that I'll make him a double burger with cheese any time.

November 2, 2009 at 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

What encouragement...thank you. I'm not walking the same path you are, but I appreciate the words of wisdom that you share which can so easily transfer to all kinds of suffering or grief. Jess, these are beautiful words..."And as I spend time with Him and allow Him to overcome even my deepest sorrows, I am allowing Christ to define who I am." I pray that He will indeed fill you up, and I pray that I can learn from your example.

November 2, 2009 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Everday Edwards said...

Hello, I ran across your blog today from a friends site and I have read your story. I just have to say that you are an amazing woman and you have such a testimony and you have your faith in the right place. Jesus Christ! I will be praying for you and your family.

November 3, 2009 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Beckypdj said...

I was praying on the way to work this morning that people would see Christ in me.

I can relate to the statement you made about feeling happy and people thinking you are fine and ready to move on. I have been on this grief journey almost two years now and there were times I felt happy, but was almost afraid to act like it. Not because of disrespecting Peyton's memory, but because of people's expectations for me to be better from then on. I thought I might let them down. I've gotten past thoughts and feelings like that, thank you Lord.

November 3, 2009 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger ErinnMike said...

This was such a great post. There is another blog that I follow that I think could use some of your strength...

If you ever have some free time, I think she could use some of your positive thoughts.

November 3, 2009 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Sweet life with boys said...

It is such an honor to read your blog and watch Jesus work in your lives. You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your journey with us:)

November 3, 2009 at 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

simply said...beautiful words.

November 3, 2009 at 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Karina said...

I am not even religious, and yet there is never any question to me that you are someone who has faith in Christ.

Yes, you are the Jess who lost Cora, but it is also plain to me that you are someone who sees her life and the lives around her in a bigger context.

More powerful, to me, than the sign around your neck proclaiming your loss is the one that says you are a mother.

I think you should know that you inspire others, not just those who share your faith - I share with you the bond of motherhood, and as a mother you inspire me too.

Strength, insight, and a beautiful way with words have ensured you a wider reach than any one denomination.

November 3, 2009 at 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Carla said...

Karina's comment echoes very strongly with me. I think of you daily Jess. I think of Cora all the time, I see her in so much of the world. She is a formidable little lady who has touched more lives than most of us ever will. You and Cora have taught me so much and Cora's influence has made me a better mammy to my little girl. You both mean so much to me and my family. Take care of yourself. Thanks for sharing so generously xx

November 4, 2009 at 3:53 AM  
Anonymous Nan said...

Another fabulous book on the subject of the fruit borne of suffering is John Piper's The Hidden Smile of God. It's a blessing to hear what God is teaching you through his truth applied to your sorrows.

November 4, 2009 at 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Nan said...

I was also going to say that many people who face long-term illnesses have to come to the same point that you have come to. Do I want this to define me and be the thing that people know me for or do I want them to know me as the one who trusts Jesus no matter what. I've had a short struggle with a physical affliction recently and even through it, God has been teaching me what it means to live in and on Him alone, not being ruled by my circumstances. While sickness and death are not usually a direct result of sin on our parts they are a result of the Fall... sin in the world... as Christians we cannot put the name of our afflictions over us as the name written over us by the Hand of God is "Child of God," "Bought and paid for," "Beloved."

Thank you again for allowing God to encourage and teach others through your struggles and joys.

Romans 8 "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.....No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

You and Joel are living proof of the glory being revealed in us.

November 4, 2009 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger katherine said...

I don't know you but I've been reading your blog long enough and following your story and I do see Christ in you. Your love for him and desire to bring him glory is so evident. He is glorified through you and both your joy and your pain.

November 4, 2009 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Nic said...

I am almost done reading the book "When Jesus Speaks Into your Sorrow". I haven't lost someone but it was given to me by a friend to help me process some other issues in life. I've thought of you so many times as I've read it and wondered if I should send it to you. I don't know you but have followed your blog. When you posted that you just went to her retreat and have her books I was SOO EXCITED!! She will be the resource I suggest as I know people that are experiencing grief of many kinds. I'm so thankful you guys had a great weekend and added friends to your journey!! Your posts are always touching, encouraging, and full of HOPE!

November 4, 2009 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Dear Jess,

What great joy it was to read how God truly met you and your husband this past weekend at the retreat.

I knew this would be so deeply touching.

My daughter in love shared your blog with me, she reads it daily.

I shared this post with a very dear friend of mine who lost her son to NB also. He was 11.

She was deeply touched by your testimony of HOPE.

Truly our identity is in "CHRIST alone."

What an amazing revelation that is for us all.

Thanks for taking the time to share this with us.

My son is a cancer survivor.

November 4, 2009 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Trinity said...

I am going to let me mom know about these books. Her father, my grandfather, passed away in August. Then 3 weeks later my family moved to Richmond VA which is 3 hours away. She was so close to my sons, seeing them nearly every day of their lives so in a way she has lost them too. Thank you for sharing your pain...the good, bad and ugly of it. You are a blessing.

November 8, 2009 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Daniel and Tiffany said...

Amen and amen....Suffering purifies us and makes us reflect Christ more to this world. His ways are definitely not our ways, but my prayer is with you...that CHRIST would define who I am in all things and that everyone around me would see HIM above all else. Blessings on you..

November 9, 2009 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Aubre Rice said...

I want to thank you for helping me to help someone else. My neighbor just lost her husband 6 days after he was diagnosed with Liver Cancer. They are very young and still newlyweds. She is devastated. I didn't know what to do and after reading your blog I ordered her the book "Hope". I just know this book will help her through this hard time. Thanks.

November 11, 2009 at 6:39 AM  
Blogger Carpenter's said...

I don't want grief to define who I am.
I want Christ to define who I am.

I need to have this in my bathroom when I put my makeup on in the mornings. I have a hard time b/c I feel at times I only have my babies to talk about. When in fact I need to talk about all the joys he has brought to me and my family.

Thank you, thank you for this reminder!

November 15, 2009 at 11:21 AM  

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