The hard surrender to Summer

Spring is the last season my Gianna walked this earth.

I feel like today I stand on a bridge that I am being forced to cross.

When I turn around, I see that early season of Spring with her so alive. Those cold days when we felt warmer days would never come.

We chased joy, we chased spring!

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I CRAVE my cold early spring.

It was snowy and wintry, and I want it back. I want her back. I do not want to walk forward.

I do not want this new summer. I do not want to do a summer without Gianna.

I am not given a choice.

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I want My life in Spring with Gianna running towards me, holding my hand, giggling and running under the bare  trees chasing her goats with her siblings.

We were Hunting for Spring…even in the dead of winter, we ached for Spring.

I wrote this IG post on March 8th and did not even realize the painful truth and the deeper ache to my words that I would read later with my new reality.

The deeper truth of the promise and HOPE we cling to.

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I miss Running in the cold early Spring air…. aching for warmer days but feeling so grateful…. smiling and living BIG in a miracle of life.

Miracles.

I held miracles when I held my Gianna.

But, When I look ahead, she is no longer walking on this earth.

I have to start a new season without her. Summer without Gia.

I can no longer physically touch my baby.

It hurts so deep, like a hot iron on my heart.

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She is now healed.

WHOLE.

in Heaven shouting and singing for joy, and painting pink sunsets and sunrises with Jesus….

She is so happy. A miracle that takes faith to see and  believe.

I did not choose this path

But it is truth.

She is No longer in my arms, not playing with her siblings on the farm, and not swimming in the pool in daddy’s embrace this summer.

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There will be no picnics with her.

We will not be laying down on a blanket playing with chicks and drinking lemonade together.

What is this new summer that we face without her???

I hate it.

I walk forward over my bridge of surrender,  into her Victory garden and I cry out  and I hunt for signs of her JOY.

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I always look for her.

How is this even reality?

Saying goodbye to Spring is yet another hard surrender being forced upon us in the winter of our souls.

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This month slays us altogether.

June is filled with so many memories and remembrances and anniversaries and celebrations.   This month, 4 years ago, we brought our miracle,  Gianna, home.  Two years ago today, we moved to Morning Glory Farm. Today is Brians Birthday and In one week is our twenty -year anniversary.  So many bitter sweet moments.

So many Gia-lemons….. ….. 

Spring has always been our absolute favorite season ever!

Filled with such HOPE!

Every year, We literally sit on the edge of winter in mid- March and anxiously await the blessing of the first day of spring; like a mother bird on the edge of her nests awaiting her eggs to crack open!

We wait impatiently for the first signs of new life!

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We go on spring hunts and look for evidence of redemption and newness around us!

We celebrate color and creation!

It is a true celebration in our home as we witness the springin’ forth of beauty and new bursting forth of life from all that was brown and dead.

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Then it came.

March 21st.

I knew something was terribly not right when the first day of spring came this year  in a flurry of sleet, frozen ice and falling snow.

I remember feeling so mad….so frustrated and just so confused.

Why in the world was our Spring  being Hi-jacked?

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Why was this enemy coming in like a literal rushing wind and destroying our celebration and literally crushing and killing our trees and blossoms which were just on the verge of springing forth new life and new fruit?

Yeah, I was pretty darn furious and having a hard time enjoying the beauty of the moment.

I was so crushed that my favorite mulberry tree had succumbed to the terrible assault of this freakish early-Spring- Winter storm.

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I was also so sad because our mama bunny, Lola, had just birthed baby bunnies on the first day of Spring and they did not survive.

This storm was stealing my spring dreams.

I still will never forget a conversation I had with Gianna about that loss.

We were walking around in the snow and I knew I had to tell her the sad news and was dreading it.

I got down on my knees and knelt before her and looked into her eyes. I said,”Gia…baby…. Lola’s babies bunnies did not survive. They died. I am so so very sorry.”

I will never forget her response because it still brings me such comfort.

“Mommy, It’s ok! I know they are safe and they went to heaven and they are happy jumping around and playing with Lucy (Lucy is our beloved golden doodle who died last summer)!”

I remember being so pleasantly surprised by her heart of peace over the death of those babies. God’s mercy.

Jesus says to have the faith of a child.

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At the time, I could not even grasp why I felt such anger over that Spring storm….it was not like me.

I usually find the silver lining in just about everything, and I was actually surprising myself that I could not see past the gloom of my thoughts on that first day of Spring.

in retrospect, it is almost embarrassing how I let myself get so upset over something so fleeting….

But, I believe it was more than just the Storm….

I believe it was an actual glimpse into the darkness of what would soon invade us…

….a metaphor of the tragedy that would soon befall my family, my Gia, our home, and our hearts in the coming days.

I was given a bit of a premonition, I believe.

A feeling that something was not as it should be, and this feeling disturbed my inner most being.

It haunted me.

We were also just days away from our very first Morning Glory Explorers Class! The kids and I were so super excited about hosting the kick-off class to formally begin our Morning Glory Friends -ministry.  We had 10 children planning to come and attend our class to raise money for heart babies at Morning Star healing home in China!

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Thankfully, the ice and snow did melt in just two days and we were elated to not have to cancel our class!

I decided to hide Easter eggs for the kiddos in our class under that  sorrowful fallen tree. I wanted to bring HOPE to that destruction that was right in the middle of  my land!  It was my small, tangible and personal way of  reclaiming what that fluky, frozen assault had taken away from us. In my mind, these eggs meant redemption and new life…so under that fallen tree those eggs were planted!

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The kids had so much fun finding their surprise eggs which were filled with animal crackers to feed the animals!

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So  much joy that day!

I remember Gianna squealing with delight that so many friends were coming to help save heart babies and celebrate Spring with us and meet all of our farm animals! So many beautiful memories.

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We had sent everyone home that day with a Morning Glory Flower seed packet  and a pot to plant their new seeds.

Morning Glory Flowers are very special to our family.

They symbolize the truth that HIS mercies are new every morning…they stand for the hope of the rising sun.

This was also the last flower my Gianna ever planted.

I am still awaiting its bloom.

…that day was HOPE-filled.

A complete rescue of Spring!

A feeling of joyful anticipation of what was to come in this new season.

However ….It was just three days before Gianna would go into cardiac arrest.

And her heart would fail.

Gianna was running around March 27th outside and enjoying a beautiful day! We even made a Birthday video for Grandma Pat!  We had no idea that death would creep into our home that night to try and steal our baby girl.

At around 6 pm, Gianna was showing signs of what looked to be a common stomach bug.  We were told to give plenty of fluids, and keep checking temps and ride it out. We called her cardiac INR nurses and they gave us a game-plan to keep her safe.

Gianna threw up about two times and bounced right back to her happy self. No fevers at all.  We watched her like hawk. Forced fluids and kept her close.

She and I stayed behind while the family went to church activities and we happily folded laundry together and watched our Fixer Upper show. This was a usual tradition for us on Tuesday nights. I am so thankful for those special nights.

We also took a bath and got comfy in bed so she could stay close to me all night. She wasn’t completely herself but she was not displaying any alarming symptoms.

….Then came the commencement of what would be the darkest winter of our hearts.

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darkness crept over our home at  3 am, like a thief in the night, and assaulted us in the most violent of ways and stole our Spring.

She awoke at 3am and threw up and went immediately unconscious. What we did not know at the time was that a freakish acute blood clot came out of no where and stopped my baby girl’s mechanical valve.

All I remember is that a literal angel carried me and my baby down the stairs as I was shouting  “JESUS SAVE JESUS SAVE JESUS SAVE!!!! I called out to Brian, HELP!!!!”

I have no idea how we even got downstairs.  It was a flurry of activity and commotion and PRAYER…so much prayer, so many tears and calling out for HELP!

We were crawling on our knees, begging God for miracles!

Brian called 911 and they arrived in minutes and carried her away to the the nearest hospital where the first of many miracles did unfold.

She was brought back to life. He is mighty to save.

She was transferred to our children’s hospital and that is where we learned that her heart was failing and that she needed to go on life-support and get life-saving surgery.

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we immediately called her team at CHOP in Philly and told them that we would trust what they told us to do. Her cardiologist said that she should be transported to Boston where her heart was originally re-built and where her life was saved after her first failure.

This was the team  that held Gianna’s complicated heart in their hands, and they knew the complexities of her unique anatomy.  It was agreed that this was where she needed to be.

…what would transpire over the next three weeks would be a literal winter storm of our  hearts that would pummel and attack us and throw us to our knees in complete dependence on our mighty God to save.

My Gia was like an early spring blossom that was trying so desperately to survive   and stand up in the dead center of an unexpected raging storm.

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She is so strong, brave and courageous.  My warrior fought with every ounce of her fierce spirit.

I am humbled beyond words to be her mama. Her life speaks of brave HOPE.

HOPE is what we clung to as we BEGGED God to DO IT AGAIN. SHOW YOUR GLORY!! HAVE MERCY……


We had just gotten to Boston.

She survived the first ever “life support” on  Boston Children’s Hospital transport via fixed wing.  GOD DID it!  She was alive.  We were there.

Exhale. MIRACLES!!!!

here we were….what felt like “the Promise Land.” We made it! She made it!

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Just have to get our baby girl that life saving surgery……all will be well.

It’s that HOPE that kept us on our knees. Yet, at that point……certain words could not be uttered from my lips.

I sat ….I fell to my knees.  We were here….HE was parting the red sea.

“My God is so faithful!!!”

My “Way Maker” was doing it again. Fresh memories of the seas parted 2.5 years ago, then again 3.5 years ago.  And 4 years ago.  “Again, LORD….again!!!! YOU ARE ABLE!!!!”

Oh the HOPE that filled our hearts….and overflowed into every room, conversation and prayer and journal entry and hug and song.

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DO IT AGAIN!!!

But, that one morning.  He asked me in the stillness of a sunrise over her bed, with hope rising in the air.

“will you still praise me….EVEN IF?”

“Wait???? What GOD?????

Why are you asking me this question? That is so not needed.

YOU WILL DO IT AGAIN!  You will show your glory!!”

in my weakest voice as tears fell

“yes….yes.” I ….I…I will still praise you ….even if”  


He did not Do it again.

He did not perform an earthly miracle. He chose a higher miracle. A miracle that never disappoints.

He is God and we are not.

And we are crushed.

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He chose to display HIS glory in a higher and more powerful way.

He broke her chains, HE healed Gianna in a way no doctor could.

We wailed, we also dropped to our knees and worshiped. How is that possible?

…because We glimpsed HIS power, we peaked into heaven. WE SAW what we live for. IT IS ALL REAL. HE IS REAL. A peace that transcended all understanding.

Her brave story is a story of a HOPE that does not disappoint

it is recorded here.


time stood still. What is time?

What is this life?

“WHAT IS HAPPENING?” I thought.

They pulled my hands off my little girl, ripped my body away from a hospital that once held such hope.

“You are not suppose to leave your baby behind!!!!!  You are not supposes to leave the hospital without your baby!!!”

Why!!!!! why are you making us leave her??? I need to touch her skin.  I need to kiss her! I NEED HER!!! I NEED TO HOLD HER AND NEVER LET HER GO!

SHE IS MY BABY!!!”

They made us walk away from her. They made us leave the state without her. What kind of world is this?

Confusion. HURT. HELL.

That exit from that building was walk  of surrender that slayed us.

I walked out holding only my Lily plant that was sent to me when I first arrived to Boston.

I still do not know who sent it.

But that flower symbolized HOPE to me.

I walked away from a building that held no hope and yearned to remember the only ONE that does hold hope.

“I believe GOD, help my unbelief!”

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My plant stayed alive those first two weeks and greeted me when I entered my sleep space, my war-room.

It prayed with me ….bowing to the light-giver.

HOPE.

But, it started to wither and die that last week…just as my Gianna was fading.

THEY made me leave her.

I CLUNG to my Lily.

“I will not leave you!”

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We came home to an empty house and fell to our faces and wept and groaned.

All of us undone.

“HOW IS THIS OUR LIFE? Where is our baby!!??”

We were literally caught by our family and friends who would weep and grieve deeply with us.

We were held.

WE ARE HELD.


I awoke the next morning feeling as though I was on another planet. I was kicked off my planet.

Where am I?

What is this sun that slaps me in the face?

Why is it so bright? Go away sun! Why do you mock me??!!!

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Where is my  Gia?

This world is not my home!!! This is not my home!!! I am a stranger here.

I crawled outside….I was told that Spring had finally arrived to MD .

I was told it was warm and gorgeous outside.

I was told there was beauty that surrounded me as I walked towards our farm animals that were also missing their smallest and cutest, and most adoring fan.

I did not see beauty.

I did not see anything beautiful.

It all felt as though it laughed at my sorrow.

Why was this world shining when my world was so dark and cold.

Why are you not weeping with me, world!???

…..But, I did see love.

I saw our land that had been cleaned up from the assault of the early spring snow storm.

I saw the love and work that our church had graciously come together to do to serve us.

….LOVE.

God had mercifully opened my eyes to love.

The grass cut, flowers planted, mulch laid down, broken trees cleaned up. damaged Limbs cut and carried away.

A sweeping away of the broken land.

Damage lifted from the storms that hit our home.

There was a NEWNESS.

I felt love on the most emptiest day of my life.

I felt HIS arms holding me up and carrying me as I crawled around outside.

“Oh, If it were only possible to clean up the brokenness of my heart, LORD” Please clean up this damage GOD!

Make it better!!”


I was told our mama bunny had babies…..born on Gia’s heaven day.

Only GOD.

“I must hold these babies” I said!

I was told there were two healthy babies.  I cradled them in my arms and imagined my Gianna’s delight.

Why couldn’t I hear her squeals.

“Where is my baby?? How can I get used to not hearing her giggly voice anymore, Lord?”

There was a black baby and a brown baby.

New life.

The black ones were always Gia’s favorite.

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The brown baby had only one ear.

“Wow, little bunny…..I know how you feel. I feel as though part of my body has been ripped away from me too, little bunny. How Will we survive with this brokenness, little baby bunny? How will we make it?? How will we go on without her???”

I then looked deeper into that box and felt around. Something told me to keep digging. I did not know what I was looking for. But I kept looking.

All I wanted was my Gianna.

I never grow tired of looking for her. I desperately ache to feel her presence.

I am told she died.

But, I know she lives.

There she was.

There God was.

A bunny who did not make it. It was not alive. She looked so peaceful and so sweet, that poor sweet sweet bunny was still warm but not alive. I found her. She was not forgotten.

A gift, a treasure in our darkness.

I held her close….We all cradled her and wept over her. Her skin was so soft like our Gia’s skin. She looked like she was sleeping, but her spirit was gone.

She was the only thing beautiful to me in that moment.

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And, amazingly enough, She had a tiny scar right over her heart.

That precious and tiny dead bunny ministered more to us that day than anything alive and beautiful ever could have.

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That bunny was Gianna’s bunny.

That bunny was God’s heart for us.

“I love this bunny, mama!!!!!” Said my Tolly

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“I do too, sweet girl….I love her so very much”

God did not forget us.  He weeps with us.

That bunny was God’s love note to us that day that HE DOES NOT FORGET US.

He catches our tears and holds our hearts.

He grieves with us.

HE SEES US. He is the GOD WHO SEES us.

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While the world was rejoicing in the symphony of a new spring and new life and beauty,  I felt that He was coming close and weeping with us over this broken world.

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He came near.

These bunnies have remained very special to us.

Tangible evidence of God’s Love in our darkest days.

We walked our sweet dead bunny over to where that mulberry tree had died in that storm.

There was only the evidence of a dead stump.

But this was a space that once held the beauty of a grand tree of delight and memories.

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There was a remaining weak shoot that reached for heaven from the middle of  the dead stump.

There it was.

Evidence of life.

Evidence of rising above.

I saw it.

My eyes saw HOPE in my despair.

That was my miracle that day. I was given eyes to see.

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I knelt down on that holy ground and claimed it for victory.

That ground saved me that day.

My vision of HOPE saved me. God saved me.

“NEW GROUND!!” I said

“YOU HAVE TO MAKE BEAUTY FROM THESE ASHES, LORD!” I screamed!

REDEEM!!!

There we buried Gianna’s bunny, who we named “Lily” next to our dead Lily flower bulb that I rescued from the hospital.

We started her garden of promise. Her victory Garden.

“BRING LIFE, LORD!”

“Bring LIFE in this surrender!” I WAILED!

Over the next few days, We each picked out our very own Gia-flowers to plant there.

We broke ground. We claimed truth.

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I wrestled on that ground.  I knelt and started digging with my son.

I told them we are making a garden. Then knew it was the right thing to do too.

My brave family claimed this promise with me.

“LORD, GROW us….enlarge our hearts around this loss!”

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WE KNOW YOU ARE NOT DONE, JESUS!!!

Your stories do not end in ashes.

You are making new wine!!

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Bring light through our broken cracks, Jesus!

There we wept, wrestled and pleaded and prayed that our tears would water the seeds of HOPE.

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Here would be Gianna’s victory Garden.

Here is where we will see truth.

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Here is where beauty will grow around that dead stump.

That loss of that tree will always remain. But beauty will rise around it.

Redemption.

Here we will see a tangible picture of what OUR GOD does.

I CLAIM THIS GROUND for Jesus!!! Satan will not win.

Death does not win!

In the crushing, in the breaking….You are doing something new in us and around us, JESUS!

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WE bravely break ground and we bravely believe for miracles. We are weak, but we choose HOPE.

That is how I know my GOD is real.

He can take the most precious treasure from our arms….and we still survive and we still believe and we still see truth.

That is mercy in the mess.

We saw truth that night that we walked her to heaven and we cling to that.

we are changed by that glimpse into HEAVEN.
We are Crushed but we are clinging.

I walked around that first day without my Gianna and I felt dead to the world, but I saw a vision of LIFE.

That is a miracle.

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held
This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held
If hope is born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?
~Natalie Grant,
HELD)

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So, a new season has called our broken hearts to walk forward and we walk across this bridge with tears…..

we have to walk into a Summer with an aching surrender….a broken heart….. looking back at the setting sun.

I miss my old spring. I ache for My old life.

I Miss my baby so much.

We wish for a different story.

BUT we are Believing HE IS NOT DONE.

He will bring NEW.

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We plunge into this darkness with our white-knuckled fists clenched tightly around the promise of a new HOPE and the promise of a rising sun.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

(psalm 27:1)

We will wrestle for the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

We will take GOD at HIS word and believe that SPRING will come again.

His mercies are new every morning.

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I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

(psalm 27:13-14)

We chase the sun. 

… we will chase Gia’s lemon-joy. 

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