Monday, August 4, 2008

A Much-Needed Weekend Getaway

We spent this past weekend in Pigeon Forge, TN on a youth retreat with our great friends, Tyson and Renee Griffin. Tyson is the youth pastor at Tunnel Hill First Baptist Church (in Tunnel Hill, GA). Our group consisted of close to 40 people, including about 25 amazing young men and women, a dozen or so wonderful chaperones, and guest speaker Randy Hollingsworth and his family. (Although you likely don't know any of these folks, I wanted to mention them because their great PEOPLE, which is sort of a theme in this post.)

We had a great time there... eating out, hearing Randy and his family lead us in worship, being challenged from the Word, staying up late each night, riding go-carts, slipping away to Starbucks, swimming, and more. But, if you're anything like me, these things always come back to one thing: PEOPLE. It's the PEOPLE we remember most. The things we do come and go, but the bonds that are formed live on and oftentimes grow deeper and stronger.

During the past two months, Nicol and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of PEOPLE who have taken the time to write or call us. I have certainly been reminded of this recently, during the past several days, as many very encouraging comments have been posted here on our blog. And I must pause here to give a huge thank you to Angie for making this site available to you at Bring the Rain. What God has been doing in and thru her as she has shared their story is absolutely remarkable. But far more remarkable than that, to us personally at least, has been the way she and Todd and their girls have reached out to us with love, comfort, support, and encouragement. What makes their efforts so special is the fact that in the midst of their own grief they have chosen to carry some of ours. That is divine... a God-thing for sure. Nicol and I have commented on several occasions that we simply can't fathom how they've done it. Their sacrifice has been like a soothing balm for our wounded hearts, a cup of cold water that has helped to quench our thirsty souls. Thanks Todd, Ang, Abby, Ellie, and Kate. You have no idea.

But I can't stop there. Many, many people have helped us during this time. Our parents - who have suffered on two levels in all of this, both as mothers and fathers, and grandmothers and grandfathers - have, not surprisingly, been wonderfully present for us. Our siblings have been incredible, even though they too are sharing in our pain and grief over their own loss in Luke's death. Our friends and neighbors have been there for us in ways that we can't begin to describe. Acquaintances and total strangers have expressed their pain and desire to carry this burden for us. Many have written to let us know that they understand, they "get it"... because they too have lost children. Still others have let us know that even though they can't empathize, they are praying for us and will continue to do so. The list goes on and on and, in reality, these few sentences fail dramatically in my heart's desire to express how much PEOPLE have meant to us as we grieve the loss of our son.

I have been reminded again and again of a couple of verses in Galatians that have taken on entirely new meaning for us - bear one another's burdens ... each one will have to bear his own load (6:2, 5). I know that context is important (in this case, gentle restoration of those stuck in sin, guarding against temptation, pride and self-deception, etc.) but there are a couple of really important thoughts here: when life changes in an instant, we need each other, and yet there is also a sense that only the individual can carry his or her portion.

These things that we face are too much for anyone to bear. We can't do it alone. The only way to survive is with one another... and I mean that literally. There are days when the one thing Nicol and I want to do is get thru it. And the reason we are able to do that is because of God's miraculous and gracious provision of allowing others to bear our burden. We have had our strength renewed time after time as He divides the load and gives out bits and pieces here and there, among his PEOPLE, so that we are able to keep going, to make it thru this storm. We have been so touched by this reality because many of you have written and told us that you have prayed that God would allow you to share in our loss. Please know that He has answered those prayers!

The other side of this coin, though, is that we do have to carry what the Lord gives us. There's no getting away from it... especially something as painful as losing a child. As much as we have been encouraged by others in their concern for us, the load is still there. There's no escape, no easy ways out. I remember in those early days, climbing into bed or getting into the shower was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn't want to be alone. I wanted to be surrounded by others. I needed to be surrounded by others. I wanted to be distracted with noise and conversation and laughter and splashing kids in swimming pools and lawnmowers and music and... all the things PEOPLE do. I needed the hugs and gentle touches of friends and loved ones, the comfort of a home cooked meal, thoughtfully prepared and brought to us, the you-don't-have-to-say-a-word looks that communicated deep concern, the... all the things PEOPLE do in situations like this.

And yet the quiet and alone moments still came. They had to. It's just the way life is. And while those moments have been a natural and necessary part of the healing, it was in them that the full brunt of our load would hit us like a train. It was then that we were faced with the severity of the struggle we were facing. It was then that we would weep and cry and wail and hold each other and ask why this had to happen and wonder how can we possibly keep going. It was then that God would whisper peace to us. It was then that we sensed the power and hope of the risen Christ. It was then that our daughter would do something wonderful and cute and make us laugh. It was there that life began anew. It was there that healing had begun. It was there that we looked forward to all the PEOPLE who would come to visit us, pick up the load again, and help us get thru another day.

I can tell you in all honestly that I don't know how - or if - we would be standing without the love so many people have shown us. It began immediately, in the very moments after Luke died, and has continued to this very day. Only in eternity will we know the extent to which we have been sustained by it. Many thanks and blessings to all who have helped us carry this load. You are loved and we are deeply grateful.

By the way, the picture up above is of Summer with her good buddy Ty (Tyson and Renee's oldest boy) at Cracker Barrel in Pigeon Forge last Saturday night. She was trying to teach him how to master the little game he's looking at. :-)


Megan said...

I have prayed for you since Angie first told of your loss on her blog. I am so glad that you are sharing your story, so that I can get to know your family the way I feel I have come to know Angie's.

I had never heard the concept of praying to take on some part of a person's grief until Angie mentioned it in one of her requests for your family in those first few days after Luke's death, but I now know that there is power in such a prayer.

I am glad to know that God has answered that prayer for me and so many others in your life. May He continue to sustain you as you live each new day in your new "reality."

p.s. I think the pictures on your sidebar of Luke are so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

God is so good, isn't He? He blesses us beyond our expectations. I'm so glad you are surrounded by people who love you and especially those who can reach out despite their pain.

It's a healing process for everyone involved, even us out in blog land. Tons of hugs and continued prayer for your journey.

take me away said...

I was directed here by Angie, and I just want you to know that I am praying along with your family. Luke was so, so beautiful. Thank you for having the strength to share your story. I fell blessed to have the opportunity to get to know Luke through your words.

Tippa Glover said...

Greg and Nicol -

May God continue to lead you through this incredibly difficult time. You are thought of and prayed for often.


The Morris Family said...

Whether we have the opportunity to hold them for 10 weeks or 3 years, the pain runs so deep, but his river is deeper still. I read a scripture in Ez.1:1, I love and cleave to this verse as it points to our providential God as there are bounds that can not be exceeded pertaining to the breaths that our little ones took...Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month....Joel lived 3 years 4 months and 10 days and so did you sweet Luke have his months and days according to His will. May the Lord give great grace as we continue the journey through grieving. I will give glory to the Lord for his presence with us through this trial.
Cindy Morris

Mare said...

Since Angie mentioned the death of Luke on her blog, I have been praying for all of you.

Angie's blog has lead me back to the Lord. I thank God for her every day. I am in awe as to the amazing ways God touches our lives, holds us as we rest our weary heads on his chest, wipes our tears and restores our strength.

I will continue to pray that God will continue to hold and comfort your family day by day.

georgia tarheel said...

Greg and Nicol-
First of all, thank you for sharing with us. I don't know you, but having been one of the meal providers for your (very large!!) family during the time following Luke's death, I am so glad to be able to keep up with you. I have prayed for you and been getting brief updates from Jake and Jennifer, but my heart has been burdened for you. I am glad to know that trips to Pigeon Forge are happening, even amongst the pain. I pray that joy finds you more often and that God's power sustains you when you think you can't go on.

We are praying daily for peace and strength in your lives.


Bethany said...

Dear Greg & Nicol,
As many others, I found out about your story through Angie's blog. Please know that as soon as I heard, you were in our thoughts and many, many prayers....whenever I think of you and your family, I lift you up to the Lord....and I will continue to do so.

-Bethany in Michigan

created2teach said...

We probably live within ten miles of you and yet we are strangers. We are strangers, and yet we are family. Only God Himself can do that. I suppose if Angie & Todd had not gone thru the same kind of loss, that they would be there for you, because they are your family, and they know the Lord. But your bond is stronger because of shared pain. I would also suppose it is healing ot them to reach out and to you and the others they reach out to. I have a wonderful family of God loving folks, and I admire you all from afar (tho' not too far), and I know that despite the pain, you are going to make it.

Nina said...

Greg and Nicol, just know that prayers are being lifted up for you and your family. What a terrible loss for you, Nicol, Todd and Angie. When I read your blogs, my heart just breaks for all of you. I hope that I can help you all carry your burden. God Bless

Martha said...

I've been following your story since I stumbled across Angie's blog a few months ago--I'd like to say I stumbled across it by accident, but I don't really think there are any "accidents" in life that God doesn't know about. I think about all that you and your loved ones have been through and I just stand in awe at the grace and dignity you show. What a wonderful faith you have.

Stuarts said...

You are a special family...Thank you for sharing so deeply. May you continue to experience His perfect healing.

Jonah and The Whale Foundation said...

I know that God does not work in mysterious ways because there is nothing mysterious about what he does, even if we can’t understand it. I am a bereaved parent myself, and I run a national non-profit organization called Jonah & The Whale Foundation that helps families of disabled and chronically ill children. In late May, I was already broken over the Chapman’s Tragedy when I heard on our Pittsburgh Christian radio station about the tragedy that then touched you and Nicol. In tears, I desperately tried searching for information about your family and found Angie’s Blog only to realize the tragedy that Nicol’s brother (and Angie) had gone through as well.

I have shed many tears over the months for your family as a whole and the Chapman family as well. The Bereaved Parents Club is not one that we care to invite anyone to join. Several weeks later, I noticed that Angie’s Blog had been redone. Trying to develop better ways to communicate with the hundreds of families we help, I emailed Danielle about doing a Blog. I even spoke of you and Nicol in my email to her and then I visited her website only to see that your Foundation was listed right below my own. Please know that you will not walk this journey alone. Please feel free to respond directly to us through the Foundation website ( May you find peace and comfort in being “Held” in the arms of our Lord and Savior.

The McEwen Family said...

Hello Greg and Nicol... This is Cristi McEwen and I know you through the Paces and through Annie and Allan. I just wanted to let you know that you are continually in my thoughts and prayers and that I have had the wonderful opportunity to carry some...a tiny tiny piece... of your heartache. And i truly consider myself blessed to have been given this opportunity to pray for you on a level that I have not been able to pray for someone in a long time. Your loss is so great. Thank you for sharing that poem as it is so good for me to be able to continue to try in the smallest way to empathize with someone who has lost a child.

Anonymous said...

Dear Grey and Nicol,
I am so thankful you were able to go with Tyson & Nae on their youth retreat! What fun!
Thank you also for sharing what is important in a time as painful as what you went through. So many times when things like this happen people can become paralyzed and don't reach out to people hurting because they don't know what to say or do, so they do nothing. Thank you for letting us all know that just being there with a hug or a casserole dish full of mac and cheese can help. Thanks for letting us know just to reach out and let that person that is hurting know you are praying for them. So many nights I have been made to wake up out of sleep and you would immediately be on my mind to pray for you. The only thing I could figure is that you both might be awake at the same time and God was saying pray for them so they can be comforted and go to sleep, so their bodies can ease and rest.
Please have more times when you get away and have fun. Laugh is so's okay to laugh...allow yourself to do that.
Take care and thank you again for sharing....I only pray that by your sharing it will help the pain you feel to be eased.

Skerry said...

I learned of your family from Angie's Blog, found her by accident :)What beautiful children you have. I continue to keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Shannon said...

I just wanted you to know I, too, have lost a son. His name was Samuel and he was stillborn in December of 1999. I got to your blog from Angie's blog and I want you to know we prayed for your family when Luke died. I was so sad for ya'll and for Angie and for another loss for the family. God will work this together for good. He promises us that. Take care.

Anonymous said...

I found this through Angie's blog, and I found her blog through Hannah's Prayer. Nicol, you sang at a Christmas luncheon last year at Church of the Apostles. I was pregnant at the time, but did not know it yet. My baby had a quick life on this earth (maybe a little over a month), and that baby is now with four brothers and sisters in Heaven. I have experienced the grief of miscarriage five times now-each unique as each child was unique. A Bible study leader of mine is starting a quarterly group called Hope for Hearts to minister to women like her and myself who have lost their babies, their children. I look forward to hearing her speak, because she had to be so strong to continue our Bible study when her grief was fresh this past winter.

I want to let you know that your Christmas songs "What Child is This?" and "Rose of Bethlehem" were so amazingly beautiful, they were like anointing oil. I sent that CD to my sister in law, who has also known loss.

I am crying right now because I have known the joy of living, healthy children, and the deep pain of infertility and miscarriage, and I know that prayer has borne me up before, and that God is there when I feel alone in this.

Ravi Zacharias talks about the tapestry God weaves in each life with beautiful threads in his book "Walking from East to West." I think grief is black and dark, dark blue threads, and joy and love and hope are irridescent. I want to see the other side of the tapestry-I know it will be beautiful.

God bless your family.

I am sorry this will post as "anonymous," but it is late here, and I am not computer savvy.

vaneblu said...

we will continue praying for healing...

Hannah Elisabeth said...

I pray God's peace that surpasses all understanding over your family. This story has touched my heart in such a powerful way and reading about Audrey has too. While there will always be "whys?" God used a 10 week old precious baby boy to bring people back to Himself...amazing!

Beckycain6 said...

I love you guys. Simply put. And, I am praying for you and want you to know that the Lord is present--even when it feels like He is not. He's holding you and loving you.

Immerse yourself in your family and in "People." It is healing, and it helps.

I'm praying for you. May God shower you with His peace today.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing, and being so open and vulnerable.


Abi said...

I lost my little boy Levi to SIDS May 12th 2004. I remember the days so well you all are experiencing now. The many times I thought I wouldn't make it. I just went to a Beth Moore Conference and Beth was talking about what her mother in law said about buring her toddler. Beth asked her how she made it through and her mother in law said "I didn't want too, I just kept waking up." I remember those days, and the torn heart I had between wanting so badly to be with my baby, yet also wanting to be with my then almost 2 year old.

I just wanted to tell you, from a few years down the line, it's going to be okay. I still think about Levi a lot. But not constantly. Instead of my heart aching so much when I think of him in Heaven instead of here, I've found a place where I can be happy for him, and so grateful for those ten weeks and two days with him. I'm praying for you all, especialy you Nicol, My heart pains because I know your shoes so well. I wish I could hug you...just know I'm so sorry, I'm praying, and I'm here, just a bit further down the line. God be with you sweet sweet heart.

carriex3 said...

I have prayed since Angie posted the news of baby Luke on her site. My prayer is that our heavenly father continue to hold you and your entire family in his arms of grace each day. We also lost a baby similarly to Angie and Todd, 6 years ago. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of our little Gabriel. There were times in our journey of grief that I just screamed at God, other times, I have fallen at his feet. Whatever your need, whatever the emotion, God is there for you.
Big Hugs,

Julie Doody, Washburn said...

Hi Greg and Nicol!! I can't tell you how many times I have thought of you and prayed for you over the last few months. My heart breaks again, reading your blog. After hearing of your tragedy I discovered Angie's blog and have been extremely blessed and amused at times at her words. I hope this blog helps to heal you and brings others to the hope that we as Christians have. That no matter what goes on in this world, as Steven Curtis Chapman says, it's all "YOURS" God! Please know that your family and friends in Northern Maine still think of you and pray for you guys often. Your words are a blessing to me! And now I must end because I'm at work and the tears are streaming down my face...... ;-) Take care and hope we get to see you on your next visit back home. Love in Christ!

Dani said...

Thank you for starting this blog. Thank you for giving us somewhere to post things of encouragement. I just want you and Nicol to know that I am PRAYING HARD for ya'll! I am so burdened for ya'll and will keep praying.

Lots of Love and Prayers,

four little blessings said...

Know that you are in our prayers often. Even though we have never met, we are brothers and sisters in the Lord. More blessing for healing for you all. Peace.

The Wade's said...

You have been in my thoughts and prayers countless times. God Bless You!

Tricia Moran said...

Just an "Angie" fan coming over to say that your beautiful family is in our prayers every day. I know that words will never wash away the pain of grief, but prayers can soothe and heal it somewhat. You will continue to be in our hearts and prayers through this time of heartbreak and grief. It is good that you are finding the words to speak about it, however painful it might seem.
With prayer, love and hope,
Tricia and Family (N.VA)

Kaye MacKay said...

You are in my continued thoughts and prayers, as we, as believers, try to help you by carrying some of your 'heavy load'. I am very grateful for your time away so you could be completely surrounded by those who care for your family. May God's grace sustain all of you today, and in the days to come.
With His Everlasting Love,

Anonymous said...

I have started to comment a few times today but nothing sounds right when I read it. There just aren't any words. Just know that we miss you all very much, we love you even more and will continue to intercede for you. Hugs and kisses from Auntie to Sum-Sum.
(p.s. Happy Birthday, Greg!)

The Miller's said...

Greg & Nicol--
My husband & I were devastated when we learned of Luke's death.

We met you (Nicol) once, briefly, while we all still attended Harvest. We left Chicago-land for Tennessee 2 years ago. My cousin, Matt Rost, went to H.S. with you and we briefly talked about that--of course our conversation started because we love your music. I have listened to resurrection many times over the past 18 months.

We lost our son, Luke, on March 9th, 2007, at just 10 days old. Unlike Angie and even you, Greg, I am not so fluent though we tried to blog the "after" journey. We know how hard it is to go through those alone times. And, yes, those times continue. We are so grateful to all of those that have surrounded us.

One of the hardest things recently is that our older child, now almost 4, finally "gets it" that Luke isn't coming back from heaven. Hearing a child cry out to God, just as we have, wondering, questioning, not understanding is so hard.

Please know that we are lifting you up from across the country.

God Bless,
Holly Miller

Anonymous said...

The Lord consistently brings your family to my mind throughout the day and I pray for you each time. My heart aches for the loss of your sweet Luke and for the heartbreak and grief that you are experiencing. I pray that God will bring peace, comfort, hope and rest to your precious hearts.

Abigail's Mom (Fur Child) said...

Greg & Nicol, I have been following Angie's blog for awhile. I have not yet written to her. But now that I have been blessed to land on your blog also..... I must say never have I "met" two (or one big one) or more blessed families than yours. It is beyond thinking that you both would suffer (then rejoice) such similar devastating events. Both of your families including all extensions, grandparents etc are the strongest Godly people there are. I am blessed by both stories & Angie's now also your blog. Luke was the most beautiful baby. All that hair. As was Audrey. WOW Heaven has two of the best looking Cousin Angels around. Your earthly & heavenly children are so beautiful. You & Angie's strength is amazing and can only be through our Lord. Thanks for sharing. I will continue to follow. As Luke's big sister continues to grow. She is also soooooooooo beautiful. All of you make such gorgeous children. My prayers continue to be with you all. In Christian Love, Debbie Kennedy

Amanda said...

I was in sheer and utter shock whenever I read Angie's blog and learned of your loss. This really hit home for me because my son is around the same age as Luke.

I know that we are not guaranteed any time with our children, but as a parent, we want as much time as possible with them. I truly grieved for you (and Angie and Todd for that matter) because it was such a wake up call that God could choose to take my children back at any time.

I really appreciate your willingness to share your pain and your struggles. I hope that God has granted you and Nicol some peace in the past several weeks. I know He will continue to heal your family.

Know that prayers are coming your way from Amarillo, TX!

noahandlylasmommi said...

I am so glad to know that you are able to get some relief from your pain and suffering and give it over to me. What amazing things God can do for us.

Darlee said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you.