Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor... Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.
Mother Teresa

Friday, March 28, 2014

IN HIS PRESENCE

Quynh is in His presence every moment.

What a sweet, yet overwhelmingly powerful thought.

On the countless moments each day when I long for her, ache to hear her voice, cry out in heartache, it is this assurance that empowers to keep going.




And so... much reflection as Easter approaches. Today I just wrote...His story, our Hope, our Stronghold, our Redemption, our Healing, and the story of our real Home. Cause His Truth is all that could help my hurting heart.

...To think of Jesus existing with the Trinity in heaven painted with glory . He was there, as a King. Royalty marked his brow. . He was the highest of the highest, seated above all.



Imagine Him gazing upon His Father’s creation and turning to see the look on His face. God knew creation was lost and desperate for hope.  Their sinfulness had separated them from Him, the creator of the universe.

 God was fully aware of the decisions we would make. He knew our eyes would turn and that we would rebel and cast away His perfect love and mighty hand.. Yet, He was not only aware of humanity’s rejection but also of His plan for restoration.

God’s son was in perfect union with Him. He loved and adored Jesus. He was His one and only. They dwelt together before the dawn of time. Looking into the eyes of Jesus, God spoke out of love for His creation.

 Asking His Son to take off His royal garments and step down off the throne, Jesus was told by His Father to leave the heavenly kingdom and abandon everything...

Taking on the form of a man, Jesus left His heavenly seat and entered this world in a very helpless position; a baby. Born just like you and I.  He was suddenly relying on mankind for everything; the same mankind that had rejected His Father.

 Jesus would now experience life from the lens of humanity. He would experience hunger, and temptation. He would grow tired and weary. He would experience labor and the natural aches of a fleshly body.

As every year of His 33 years on earth passed by, I wonder what Jesus was thinking as He knew the Father’s plan? Death was on the doorstep and He would soon experience the weight of God’s wrath, the rejection of His Father, and the sins of all of mankind. The actual death seems less burdensome compared to all that Jesus was going to bear spiritually and mentally.

After several years of ministry, Jesus turned Himself over to the courts and withstood what will eternally be known as the worst suffering ever.  Guiltless and perfect, He withstood the calling and followed through on what God asked Him to do.

 The moment that the Old Testament had been telling of and that the whole universe’s hope hinged on had finally come. Jesus died. Publicly spat upon, His pierced body dangled from a wooden cross and in a moment’s time God’s wrath was satisfied and mankind’s sinfulness was forgiven.

In a dark tomb, there his body laid. The precious savior of the world was no longer living and was placed within darkness guarded by men.

 But the story couldn’t and didn't end here. On the third day, Jesus was raised from the dead and once for all conquered death for all mankind. As he stepped forth in triumph, the penalty owed for our sins was paid and death no longer had a hold on God’s creation. Death no longer has victory!



Our King is alive! He took our place and is now with His Father for all of eternity. His obedience and work on the cross has now made it possible for all of us to experience eternal life and relationship with a Holy God.  Wow...

We were created to find the ultimate fulfillment in God. When we actually start allowing Him as the only thing that needs meaning to fulfill us, then we  witness a glimmer into God’s wonderful kingdom. After all, He is preparing us for the day that we too see Him face to face.

 On the day that we finally experience all of His glory without the world, or our flesh getting in the way, we will see how incredibly worthless it has been chasing around all these other false idols, American dreams, and dimly lit features the world offers.

But waiting is often so. terribly. hard. Our timing is very limited in view and insight; for we are often seeking after something that is driven through an earthly lens. I know I do.

But right in the center of waiting is where we become increasingly aware of God’s presence. Mercy flows into our hearts and the wisdom and knowledge of God’s timing become more  evident. And He promises...God’s timing is perfect. He makes no mistakes.

He promises, that...though deep and agonizing it now is, all fades into the blissful depths of the very love you and I  were created for. then, on that day, “the bad dream will be over: it will be morning” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). the broken bone will be set. the bleeding will be stopped. the tears will be dried up. all will finally be made right. 

 As I journey forward, I hope and pray that I can become better at sitting at God’s throne and at the bottom of the cross setting my affections at the one and only place where I was truly made to be inspired, loved, encouraged, and fulfilled.


 And may each task I undertake reflect that...









Tuesday, March 4, 2014

                            

                  you are loved, Quynh.


with all our heart, we love you. 





  and you are missed. 

with all of our heart, we miss you.






 and until that day we see you again. . .

until we see that  beautiful smile 

shining from within the heavenly  Light

streaming forth from His presence. . . 

  you will remain missed.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sometimes I look at myself and think how strange and unlike myself I now am. Who is this woman? Will I ever be *ME* again? Yet, the Lord does not make mistakes. This change in me is who I am now. It has forced me to live transparently. I want to learn to live more compassionately and  love more fiercely. I am finding a better grasp on my boundaries and limitations. I see more clearly the important things in life.

 I never wanted my child to die. I never wanted to be sitting here staring at her picture, hard grieving the fact that I will never hold her again this side of Heaven. I never wanted to have to visit the grave of one of my children. I did not plan this. This was not supposed to be in my life, was it?

In our humanity, we plan out our lives in our heads. It looks just right with all the pieces in place. There is nothing missing or scattered. At least not for long. It is serene and beautiful.

...But, really, our plans are like a house of cards.

More than likely, we all  face a time in  life when what you see before you resembles something more like the aftermath of an explosion rather than the beautiful scene we had envisioned. One day, you may wake up and say, “Is this my life? How did I get here?”

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

I don't  think the Israelites looked around at their situation and thought, “What a great life! It is all so beautiful!” No, probably not...
 But, yet the Lord is adament that His plans are for their welfare. They are plans of hope. There is a future there. It just doesn’t look exactly as they thought it would look.


His Word tells me,... “The ways of the LORD are right.” (Hosea 14:9b) The loss of my child is somehow “right.” That is hard to say. There are times when I beg the Lord to give her back to me, just for a moment. I promise Him that I will hand her right back to Him. But, if I really think about it, would I truly want my little girl to leave the beauty of Heaven and the comforts of being in our Lord’s presence just so I can hold her during this vapor of a life I live? No, I would not. It would be all selfishness on my part and not at all in her best interest.

 The Lord had our whole family's welfare in mind when He took Quynh home. To ask Him to go against that perfect plan, would be going against His authority,and ultimately, the Future and Hope and Bigger Plan that He has in store for each of us.


“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jer 29:12-14a)

I have never sought Him, longed for Him  and felt Him when the waters were still ... like I do in the torrent.

Losing Quynh  was not in my plans, but the Lord held every moment of her little life and her mama’s life in His hands. So yes, this is my life.The Lord knows all this about me. He is not oblivious to my fears. None of what we have gone through was an accident. None of what we are going through now is an accident. It is all within His almighty will and all part of the Refiner’s fire. 

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

 Every horribly-overwhelming grief-filled moment I endure in this life is serving a purpose, all within His perfect will for me, and it will lack in nothing! I am not going through this trial for no good reason. It is not some random thing that just happened. My faith has been tested…and if I lean into Him, it will  produce endurance…and will eventually have a perfect and complete result.

Our entire family is different. There is no denying that we are forever changed. But, I know in my heart that the Lord has something for us in all of this. It may not be revealed to us today or tomorrow or the next day, but “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

And so, I accept these emotional days and the change in me as part of His plan. And in my human frailty, I cry out to Him. In my affliction,... He comforts me.

and I remember again...

This life  is but  a vapor of breath on a cold morning in light of eternity...We will see our beautiful baby again.

Hope is confident expectation in God to be faithful to fulfill each and every one of His promises.









Thursday, January 2, 2014

Marvin often shares his definition of faith as... "If I was God, and knew all that He knows, I would do things exactly as He did." 

 That's a hard one when you lose your precious little girl. 

 But it is true. We would not be able to breathe without the full hope and assurance of a God who is all knowing, wiser than we can comprehend, understands all, who counts and kisses our tears dry. 

... And so we enter a new year with anticipation of His goodness. It doesn't mean we don't feel tremendous loss, sadness, fatigue, afraid and lonely, even sometimes abandoned. Those are real human emotions of our being... 

BUT WE KNOW. He is bigger than our emotions, He calls our name softly though our pain and reminds us over and over that He will be enough for those emotions. In our feeling them, He will show us more of Himself. He will restore our broken hearts, and though they will not fully mend until heaven, the cracks will remind us to care about another's heart cracks even more. 

 A New Year stretches out in front of us — and most of us have no idea what’s ahead. The possibilities are endless in the coming months — countless possibilities of great joy or immense sadness. Which way will it all go? We don’t know what might derail our lives … or what beautiful surprises might sweep us off our feet. Life is a marble cake — with joy and sadness all mixed in to the batter, to make the pattern of our days. But thanks be to God, He is the one who has designed each one.

Our Tyler encouraged a family hike. It was strenuous. We saw stark. We saw beauty in the midst. A waterfall appeared after a long dry creek. The hike to the top was steep and rocky and caused us to lean on one another. Tears came freely in the vastness of nature. His majesty was everywhere, even in the bleak. We could only be still and Praise Him...


















Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And with Him...Everything



                    "Once in our world, a stable had something in it  that  was bigger than our whole world."






                                                                                                                           Video Tribute to Quynh





HOPE  is confident expectation in God to be faithful to fulfill each and every one of His promises...

 We know we will embrace our beautiful Quynh again one day.  I am sure she is breathless with excitement as she spends her Christmas with Jesus and rejoices with the angels!

Our time here is but a vapor of breath on a cold morning in light of eternity. 

May we look for Him and to Him now , and find our everything...

Merry Christmas, with love, from the Harlans

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

 Today...

 We need His constant whisper that He is here and we will make it.


We ask God  to help us not miss out on the good things that He has for us by submitting to despair.
 Every hard minute we have two choices...
 We  can focus on ourselves and our loss, which absolutely causes us greater despair...


or

we can choose to look to God and praise Him for what He is—our  absolutely sure Foundation, Everlasting Hope, Mighty Warrior, Perfect Provider, Beloved Counselor, Sovereign King of kings, Incomparable Protector, Great Physician, and Unfailing Friend. Even saying those names soothes my pain.

 His words say that despair and praise cannot coexist in our heart for very long. I believe that. Hopelessness does shrink when we choose to dwell on the abundant goodness and mercy of our Father and we voice our adoration to Him. God, please help us do that.

We are raw and broken, our HOPE is in Him alone.  Beauty is revealed in His Promises, and we cling to them..

The beautiful song below brings me to praise, and the long ago written words speak right along with it.  Click and listen with me of  the beauty of Heaven.

 And imagine Quynh laughing and dancing...

written long ago by a British theologian ...
"Think of your child, then, not as dead, but as fully alive and awakened ; not as a flower that has withered, but as one that is transplanted, and touched by the  Divine hand, and  is blooming in richer colors and sweeter shades than those we can yet imagine of earth."



 

Thursday, December 5, 2013



how do you do day 13?
the flowers are withering
the weather is dreary
sadness is in every crevice of my being
our enemy would say this is it...death is the end and it will hurt like this forever.

...we say together, ""Thank you God."... and grasp to pull strength from Him and one another...

HOPE trickles through our crushed hearts,

as friends are praying diligently, and asking Him to blanket us with Grace to hold on.

and He whispers through His words...

that we are not alone
that our beautiful baby is safe
that Victory is hers
and that angels surround us.




Christmas is about such a bigger plan
we read together and try to take in the story
of the certainty of His coming,

and we light our HOPE candle.  something tangible with words we stick on the candle and cling to...

We beg Him to break in—to find us, to shatter our idols, to rescue us from sin and death, to pursue us in our depravity and wandering.  He must come to us for we are unable and unwilling to come to Him.  Advent answers our despair and our self-righteousness with the beautiful mystery of Christ’s incarnation.  We are not waiting in vain! We learn on the first Sunday of Advent, as He rides in to Jerusalem on a donkey, that He is coming with His eyes set like a flint on the cross. He means to be our Savior, to conquer death, hell, and every sin that so easily besets us.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.

Read more at http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2013/12/why-we-need-advent-so-desperately-week-1/#Y4X6fJHExybB9BDp.99

the waiting, itself,  signifies our desperation.  we need Him so desperately to come to us. 


marvin and I want to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him,... to remember what it was/and is like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
 
we are desperate for the One who comes to do that.

and then... God stretches open His hand, and the rain drops begin to fall from His fingertips. 
the rain may take all kinds of forms,
 for God has limitless resources, but we know the rain when it hits us.

it refreshes us, and we feel the buds opening just a little again.

 "Yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant."

 a stump, bringing forth branches? 

it's  not just empty encouragement; it's in the very heart of God...

"To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
~ Isaiah 61:2-3, NKJV


 
Jesus is speaking to the nation of Israel here, but timelessly, He is also speaking to our family in a beautiful, specific way,...

 for He has included us and our very real, present circumstances in the heart of His mission.

"Please God, out of ashes of devastation, draw out beauty and life. that's who You Are..."

we don't want to settle for stumps, regardless of how things seem or how we  feel.

 Jesus is in the business of bringing stumps to life with just the scent of His Spirit.

and  He does this for us...


thank you for praying.

we need Jesus.



We beg Him to break in—to find us, to shatter our idols, to rescue us from sin and death, to pursue us in our depravity and wandering.  He must come to us for we are unable and unwilling to come to Him.  Advent answers our despair and our self-righteousness with the beautiful mystery of Christ’s incarnation.  We are not waiting in vain! We learn on the first Sunday of Advent, as He rides in to Jerusalem on a donkey, that He is coming with His eyes set like a flint on the cross. He means to be our Savior, to conquer death, hell, and every sin that so easily besets us.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.

Read more at http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2013/12/why-we-need-advent-so-desperately-week-1/#Y4X6fJHExybB9BDp.99


We beg Him to break in—to find us, to shatter our idols, to rescue us from sin and death, to pursue us in our depravity and wandering.  He must come to us for we are unable and unwilling to come to Him.  Advent answers our despair and our self-righteousness with the beautiful mystery of Christ’s incarnation.  We are not waiting in vain! We learn on the first Sunday of Advent, as He rides in to Jerusalem on a donkey, that He is coming with His eyes set like a flint on the cross. He means to be our Savior, to conquer death, hell, and every sin that so easily besets us.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.

Read more at http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2013/12/why-we-need-advent-so-desperately-week-1/#Y4X6fJHExybB9BDp.99
We beg Him to break in—to find us, to shatter our idols, to rescue us from sin and death, to pursue us in our depravity and wandering.  He must come to us for we are unable and unwilling to come to Him.  Advent answers our despair and our self-righteousness with the beautiful mystery of Christ’s incarnation.  We are not waiting in vain! We learn on the first Sunday of Advent, as He rides in to Jerusalem on a donkey, that He is coming with His eyes set like a flint on the cross. He means to be our Savior, to conquer death, hell, and every sin that so easily besets us.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.

Read more at http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2013/12/why-we-need-advent-so-desperately-week-1/#Y4X6fJHExybB9BDp.99


We beg Him to break in—to find us, to shatter our idols, to rescue us from sin and death, to pursue us in our depravity and wandering.  He must come to us for we are unable and unwilling to come to Him.  Advent answers our despair and our self-righteousness with the beautiful mystery of Christ’s incarnation.  We are not waiting in vain! We learn on the first Sunday of Advent, as He rides in to Jerusalem on a donkey, that He is coming with His eyes set like a flint on the cross. He means to be our Savior, to conquer death, hell, and every sin that so easily besets us.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.

Read more at http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2013/12/why-we-need-advent-so-desperately-week-1/#Y4X6fJHExybB9BDp.99

We beg Him to break in—to find us, to shatter our idols, to rescue us from sin and death, to pursue us in our depravity and wandering.  He must come to us for we are unable and unwilling to come to Him.  Advent answers our despair and our self-righteousness with the beautiful mystery of Christ’s incarnation.  We are not waiting in vain! We learn on the first Sunday of Advent, as He rides in to Jerusalem on a donkey, that He is coming with His eyes set like a flint on the cross. He means to be our Savior, to conquer death, hell, and every sin that so easily besets us.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.

Read more at http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2013/12/why-we-need-advent-so-desperately-week-1/#Y4X6fJHExybB9BDp.99

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Grace...heartache,...  mercy,...devastation.  How do you mend those words  together?

I don't know. I'm struggling.

But He is here, present, 
keeping us,
Our Hope...

and the glimpses of His light are beautiful,...I need them so, I look for them everywhere. Cause when you hurt this hard, ... He is our Only...

He whispers to us...

in His words

in the words of our children
in the touch of a friend
in music of praise
in the video memories that run through our mind
in worship to Him when it is hardest
in Quynh's legacy to find joy in the midst...

Thank you for praying.
T
We need Jesus.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

THESE MAKE ME SMILE....EASTER 2013


               A PERFECT EASTER DANCE WITH DADDY





Saturday, April 13, 2013


its hard to begin this again after 18 months. so many thoughts to write and still i stare at a blank slate.

 my last blog post spurs me, reminds me to see God's faithfulness, to let Him work.

 the heat came, it was relentless, but the shadow of a divine wing was there too. protecting, powerful, insistent, and kept us safe. 

shortly after my last post, my sweet mom died after a short , unexpected illness.  we continue to be thankful for her life and her legacy.  i miss her. i miss her caring, her meddling, her intense love for all of us, the whole of her.

one of the things that meant most to her was to read this blog and see pictures of her loves. it kept us connected, and in her honor and to continue connection with my children and friends...i want to start back.


slowly and steadily...in a synopsis of our year in still, captured moments.  pictures truly do speak.


Quynh, age four, drew this picture
on the day that Mimi became ill
without knowing of her sickness

It has served as a reminder to us
of the deep roots of love and care
that Mimi has demonstrated
throughout her life.

The many leaves represent to us
the beautiful legacy she leaves
with her family and friends.

framed with this note
it stood with simplicity
in a room graced with beauty
fragrance of flowers and Jesus was there.









 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

to bloom in the heat...

takes incredible endurance. and isn't that something we all feel we fall short of. 'cause life is full of derailments, speed bumps,....and monotonous activities, all of which can drain us emotionally.

we can literally see our plants wilt during a one hour stint in this hot drought. water evaporates while we watch, flowers perk a bit only to expire in the heat's insistence...

and so, it was with great surprise that I saw a rose bloom today, not in the shady protection of its comrade leaves, but taller and wilder than all the others. made me smile. made me reflect.

its been a summer full of challenges and growth, along with just enough monotony and dog days to kinda even it out.

and our hope strives to model after the lonely, lovely rose. to rise above dreariness and apathy, to watch our kids learn to rise above. to become mentally stronger and spiritually more nourished, deep in our souls...so the dry, hot days of intense fire will not wilt us.

we know the heat of hard days will come, but we know He will be our life water , giving strength and satisfaction for our thirst when we need it most.

thanks, rose, for the reminder.

summer synopsis in pictures!