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Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Brutally Honest Christmas Card — D.L. Mayfield

 

childsxmasThe dreaded annual Christmas letter . . . well, that’s how I feel about writing a Christmas letter anyway . . . and I guess I’m not alone!

Our family life has never been filled with exceptional academic, musical or athletic achievements. If I compare my life to the Christmas letters I’ve received in the past, I end up feeling as if every family, except ours, is filled with over-achievers.

What ever happened to the average family? The family that was content with passing grades, musical or athletic participation, and kids who got part-time jobs, were kind, polite and didn’t get arrested? When did keeping it real become passé in exchange for masks of familial perfection?

At some point, writing the annual Christmas letter seemed to demand that I turn myself into a first class spin doctor. Should I have submitted a draft to the Positive Propaganda Police before distribution?

I quit writing that annual letter precisely because it became too hard to spin our everyday life into perfectly positive tidbits. Tidbits fit for . . . my friends . . . my family . . . close acquaintances?

My word!

If I can’t be myself with friends and family; are they really friends? Am I really accepted by family? Am I only worthy if I can frame my little life into a positive façade fit for publication?

If so, I guess I’m not worthy.

The David Boxx branch of the family tree is not “practically perfect in every way.” We are human. Life throws us curve balls. We struggle. We screw up. We don’t always make the best decisions or the wisest choices. We do our best. We fall down and sometimes we stay down for awhile. We adjust, adapt and try something new—and it’s often not very pretty.

So last year when I came across this blog post I uttered a heartfelt, ‘Hallelujah!’

Here’s to keeping it real—to being ourselves instead of fitting in.

Here’s to life—good, bad and ugly!

Let’s live life instead of paraphrasing and editing it!

Follow the link below for inspiration on how to get started.

Source: The Brutally Honest Christmas Card — D.L. Mayfield

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Inspirational Faith? 

I’ve struggled with how to respond when someone refers to my faith as inspirational.

I see the struggles and failures and my emotions cloud the view of any resulting good. Often, I don’t even want to see anything good. Recognizing good feels as if it justifies the deaths of my daughters and Gracen’s disease and honestly, that’s just offensive to my humanity. I’m doing well to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t see anything inspirational in my faith walk.

Believe me, anything worthy of praise is not my doing—at all.

And that’s not false modesty or veiled pride.

It’s ugly in here!

scroll816Like the Apostle Paul, I do the things I know I shouldn’t and don’t do the things I know I should. I guess we all do . . . and I guess that’s why the Bible tells us that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness.

The Holy Spirit is somehow displayed through our brokenness; not the perfectionism we strive for.

The girls’s deaths and Gracen’s disease have done one thing for me; they’ve confirmed my faith.

I did not realize how much faith in Jesus Christ had come to define my life.

When we feel as if God has failed us or calls something we disagree with sinful or simply behaves in ways we cannot understand and do not want to accept, we can experience what’s known as a crisis of faith. We must decide what we really believe about God. We have to decide to continue to follow Him or walk away from Jesus. 

In John chapter 6 Jesus proclaims Himself to be the Bread of Life which caused many of His followers to abandon Him. In verse 67b Jesus asked His twelve disciples:

“. . . “Do you want to leave too?””

And in verses 68-69:

“Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.””

Where else can I go?

There is nowhere.

There is none other.

Without Christ; I’d still be living with the same circumstances but I’d be completely without hope.

No hope for reunion.

No hope for redemption.

No hope for anything beyond this life.

And if I live well (as some define living well)—a positive outlook—a life of happiness and joy—it’s not enough to offset the tragedies that I, and countless others endure, in the absence of the hope that lies within.

Living well, as defined by others, is not enough.

longingformoreWe always find ourselves empty and longing without the Lord.

If living well were enough the rich and famous would not find themselves lonely, depressed and wanting more . . .

needing relationship. . .

needing relationships beyond that of a spouse, family, and adoring fans.

Money can’t buy love and love can’t buy happiness.

Ask anyone who has either—or both.

That’s why the rich young ruler came to Jesus: He just didn’t understand, or really, simply refused to accept, that he needed Jesus Himself instead of some quick and easy solution for the emptiness within. And we’re all looking for quick and easy solutions to life’s problems and longings.

But . . . 

Even when we have Jesus we are left longing.

I can almost hear the gasps—the harshly in-drawn breaths—following the reading of that last statement.

But it’s true.

It’s true.

Even with Jesus we long for more.

We long for the fulfillment of His promises—for completion—to be made like Him.

We long for restoration and redemption—to be all we were created to be.

We long to live in harmony and unity in a world of pure motivations and unconditional love.

We long for a life free of suffering, sorrow, tears, fears, problems and parting.

We long for reunion.

We long for Heaven!

We’re just not very good at distilling our desires down to the underlying longings and we chase our tails looking for fulfillment to desires we are unable to define. But Jesus is our only hope for those things—for fulfillment.

If it’s inspirational to live—truly live with the understanding that Jesus is our only hope—then I am indeed an inspiration.

Life has destroyed the illusion that anything else can satisfy.

And you know what? I’m not living in a state of perpetual satisfaction here; just because Jesus satisfies.

Nope.

Ain’t gonna happen this side of heaven.

It’s just not.

I know you’ve encountered people who flippantly tell you that Jesus is the answer for every problem, but you know—you recognize it when someone genuinely believes that to be true—when they’ve found it to be true.

When all the artifice has been stripped away; when all the individual striving has ceased—you know it.

You know—something inside has settled and is at rest.

You know—they have stopped living in expectation of worldly fulfillment and have exchanged that unachievable expectation for living in heavenly anticipation.

It’s not always pretty.

Sometimes deep wounding has revealed the truth that Jesus is our only hope.

Wounds hurt.

And pain is hard to hide.

So sometimes a faith-filled individual looks hollowed out and glassy eyed—because they have reached the end of themselves—given all they had to give—and come up short.

They’ve come up short!

They’ve come up short because they were never intended to do it all. . . be enough all by themselves.

And humility is the result.

Humility is humbling.

It’s the acknowledgement inadequacy.

And then there are those—maybe you know one—a man, woman or child that exudes peace regardless of the circumstances they face.

I don’t know what causes that; if it’s a personality trait or a reflection of spiritual maturity beyond my depth, or maybe a combination of the two; but it’s definitely the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

They . . . those rare, rare, individuals, clearly are at peace with whatever comes their way.

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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

In the face of great sorrow—peace.

In the face of perilous situations—peace.

In the face of death and destruction—utter and complete peace.

It’s not a lack of energy, resignation or defeat—it’s peace.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

 Peace. 

The absence of personal investment in a preferred outcome. 

Peace.

Hope-infused surrender not hopeless or helpless surrender. 

Peace.

Surely it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit; but I fear the only way to unwrap that gift is cooperating with the Holy Spirit during the shared sufferings of Christ.

Suffering changes people and perspectives.

Suffering is a refining fire.

It is painful . . .

and it reveals hidden depths of beauty . . . 

and strength.

Suffering burns away the humanity of man and reveals the holiness of God within.

And therein lies the beauty of brokenness.

The glue—faith—holds those broken pieces together.

And from the inside looking out, all that’s seen is the cracked facade . . . 

But from the outside looking in . . . 

broken-vessell

the Holy light of God’s perfected strength shines through that cracked and crumbling facade and the only word to describe the view is . . . Inspirational.

When the Bible tells us to . . .

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” ~  Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

it is preceded by the statement . . .

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” ~  Matthew 5:15 (KJV)

Here’s the thing . . .

ligth-under-basket1-150x150God’s light shines through your brokenness regardless of whether or not you hide your light under a bushel; just as this picture demonstrates.

Unbelievers can’t help but see the light of God within a believer. The failure to proclaim the source of that light is the equivalent of hiding your light under a bushel. The light under the bushel still shines forth and others see it, and fellow believers recognize it for what it is; but to the lost . . .to the lost . . .

it’s nothing more than an elusive quality they can’t define.

A light under a bushel gives light to others within a house, but not to all that are in the house. Proclaiming the source of the light—placing it on a candlestick so to speak, allows everyone—saved or lost—to choose to draw near to or reject the light of salvation.

So if others tell you your response to adversity is inspiring (the equivalent of seeing your good works)proclaim your faith—(let your light shine) so that your Father in heaven will receive the credit He is due and be glorified.

I’m not inspirational—the God within me is.

I’m the broken facade.

He’s the light within.

And His inspirational light shines through your brokenness too.

 

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Faith

 

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Magical Bear Traps

Magical Bear Traps

Here you go – a bereaved parent at Christmas – I’m partial to Vanilla Chai Lattes with my scones!

thelifeididntchoose

My heart hurts every time a name is added to this awful “club” no one wants to join.

One more family knows our pain.

One more family has an empty chair at holiday gatherings.

woman-looking-out-of-window

But I am thankful for the moms and dads that share their hearts in bereaved parents’ groups.  I’m thankful for the safe space to speak honestly about what this life feels like and the challenges that greet us in this Valley.

A  fellow waiting mom, Brenda Ehly, shared this on her personal Facebook page.  I asked her if I could post it here and she graciously gave me permission:

“So, every now and then, I am asked, ‘How are you?’

Just in case any of them meant, ‘What is it like to be grieving a child during the holiday season?’ let me try to explain:

First, imagine you have stepped into a bear trap.

bear-trapIt hurts.

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Posted by on November 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

How to Discourage a Suffering Friend » Vaneetha Rendall

The holidays are upon us and we will soon be interacting with friends, family and acquaintances that we don’t see on a regular basis. As a result, you may find yourself visiting with a suffering friend or family member–wanting to be supportive and encouraging but not really sure how to go about it. There are some common phrases we’ve all used, but they aren’t always received in the way we intend them to be. Therefore, it’s probably more important to know what not to say and why.

I encourage you to read this article by Vaneetha Rendall. The information is worthwhile anytime, but it might make your holidays more enjoyable for everyone if you read it in advance of the typical get togethers common this time of year.

Below is a teaser and a link for the article. I hope you will take the time to follow the link and read this informative article – for yourself, and for the suffering people you love.

“What’s the best way to discourage a suffering friend?

I can tell you what I’ve done.

I’ve told suffering friends about how other people are going through more painful trials. I’ve given examples of how brave, godly and optimistic these other people are. I’ve freely doled out advice, even mini-sermons, about how their horrible situations will turn out for the best. . .”

Source: How to Discourage a Suffering Friend » Vaneetha Rendall

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Adversity, Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief

 

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Present Tense

I recently began a post with the intention of talking about one thing and ended up writing about something entirely different. Maybe the Holy Spirit had a hand in that.

Regardless, as I looked back thinking I would begin the the second post a new way, I just couldn’t determine a more appropriate introduction for either subject. So bear with me please, if you think you’ve read this message before—because you have—at least the initial part of this post. But your final destination will be an entirely different place, and looking back, I hope you will consider both worthy of thoughtful consideration. So here we go . . .

simple-present-tenseI have found in recent times that I have begun speaking of Bethany and Katie in the present tense.

It just feels right.

And . . .

The Bible tells us that we are eternal beings.

 

One day, sitting in the sanctuary of our home church, Pastor Wes George said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “We all spend eternity somewhere.”

This was before Bethany and Katie died.

And you know, he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but the way he framed it, just seemed to boil it down to a profoundly powerful succinct message of truth.

We all spend eternity somewhere.

If I believe that truth, and I do, then this statement is also true:

In spite of the death of the body, life goes on; for the deceased.

Because we are mere mortals and cannot look beyond the veil to see life in eternity play out, we think of death as the end.

But its not.

Satan wants you to believe that’s true.

But . . .

Jesus conquered both death and the grave.

There is more to this world than the eye can see and ears can hear. More than any of our senses can catalog and identify.

There’s more.

Much, much more.

goethe-quote-the-soul-is-indestructible-and-its-activity-willThis is why believers do not grieve without hope. Faith and hope do not prevent the pain and suffering death brings; they give us a reason to continue on—something good to look forward to. I don’t know about you, but I need something good to look forward to with anticipation. I still fight with discouragement and even despair, but in the end, I have an unwavering confidence in the hope of Heaven.

So, I intentionally choose to speak of my deceased children in the present tense. I also speak of the deceased children of other bereaved parents in the present tense when I converse with them online for two reasons. First, their children live on, just absent of the earthly shell by which we commonly identified them. And secondly, while we can’t see or be a part of the daily lives of the children we’ve lost, those children have a legacy here in the world we reside in that lives and breathes on in the lives of others.

One of a bereaved parents biggest fears is that their child will be forgotten or deemed irrelevant by society at large. And you know what? It happens every single day. Family and friends cease speaking your child’s name. Time moves on. People forget the significant events in others lives as their own issues demand precedence.

I can’t tell you how many times a friend has said to me, “I’d forgotten you had a son.” It’s been twenty-four years and I understand that very few people ever actually saw my son in the flesh. They had no interaction with him at all and they have busy and demanding lives as well. Remembering my stillborn son is not a reasonable expectation even if it hurts when those we share deeper relationships with forget.

leaving-a-legacyAdditionally, many a friend was not present during my pregnancy. We met after Cole’s birth and burial. And when we moved into our new community and made friends, I told the people I met that I had three children. It’s more work than I want to routinely take on to recover a conversation gone south when others discover the tragic death of my son. And frankly, I’m not the most socially adept person out there.

It should be noted that I, like many bereaved parents, struggled greatly with how to answer the question of how many children I have. (*A footnote regarding this question can be found at the bottom of the page).

So yes, children get forgotten. And sadly some, especially those lost by miscarriage, stillbirth, or death shortly after birth are deemed irrelevant which is no great surprise when you consider the cheap regard with which life is held in this day and age.

Every life is relevant and valuable and carries forth a living legacy. Some leave a smaller footprint than others, but each one impacts their world. Even miscarried and aborted babies have a legacy.

You see, every child conceived impacts the lives of those who come in contact with them in some way or another. I would not be the neurotic (smile) woman I am today had I not conceived Cole, Bethany and Katie. Each one of my children changed me; shaped me. They’ve individually and together changed the way I think and interact with others. They’ve helped to refine my faith. They’ve taught me about joy and sorrow and the value of a sense of humor. They’ve increased my understanding of others, made me more caring and generous—more empathetic.

Cole’s footprint is much smaller than Bethany and Katie’s. Bethany & Katie both interacted with the world to a far greater degree. They’ve touched and impacted the lives of every person they ever came into contact with to one degree or another and their individual legacies will be carried forward. They may have contributed to an acquaintance’s overall self-image by a single act of kindness or a rude rejection. The smallest interaction can result in enormous life changes for an individual and then carry on to all the people they later interact with – good or bad.

legacyinpeopleAs a result, the children with the shortest of life spans can also carry great legacies. The child aborted or miscarried, changes their parents. The life of a child that dies in utero or shortly after birth of a disease, for example, may carry forth a legacy of treatment that prevents the death of a multitude of children the world over.

In spite of the fact that the earthly shells belonging to three of my four children have died, my children live on in and through me and the people they encountered in life. They also live on in the eternal unseen world and so I choose to behave as such. Check out this dialogue from John chapter 11 verses 23-26 between Jesus and Martha following the death of her brother Lazarus:

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

I believe this.

So please, don’t freak out, or correct me if you hear me refer to Cole, Bethany or Katie in the present tense. I’m not crazy, delusional or in denial.

I’m enlightened.

I hope you are too!

 

*Bereaved parents are never comfortable with leaving any of their children unacknowledged which equates with a lack of value or worth and that my friend, is absolutely repulsive to a grieving parent. So bereaved parents adopt various answers to that simple question.

Some give the exact number and deal with the fallout when follow up questions are asked and the death of their child is eventually revealed. Some state only the number of their living children. Many answer with how many they have here and add the number of children in Heaven. And others base their response on how much or little they will interact with that individual in the future.

However they choose to respond should be respected by friends, family and acquaintances. The opinion of others is irrelevant. It is not okay to tell a bereaved parent that they should not count their dead child because it makes others uncomfortable. If that how you feel, suck it up and keep it to yourself. Don’t add to the burden the bereaved already carry by forcing your opinions or convictions upon them. It is also not okay to tack on to a conversation the death or means of death of a child mentioned or left out of the count. By doing so, you are tossing the bereaved into a situation they may not be prepared to deal with. Recognize that this everyday question has become one that reveals vulnerabilities not normally laid open with anyone outside ones closest relationships.

Please demonstrate the utmost respect for the parent’s choice in responding to the question of how many children they have; it’s disrespectful to do otherwise.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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Is Trust an All or Nothing Proposition?

Counseling-theoriesI reiterated to my grief counselor last week that I trust God for my eternal future and I trust that God will walk me through anything He allows to transpire in my life but that I don’t currently trust Him with my heart.

Ruth responded, “But is that really trust at all?”

I cocked my head to the right and looked her in the eye and proceeded to relate a very poor analogy in support of my position. You see, I knew I believed that trust, like faith, grows over time in every personal relationship, but I wasn’t really prepared with an answer to support my conclusion.

When my daughters were young, on occasion they would be afraid to go to bed fearing that they would have a nightmare. My husband, David, is pretty much a creative genius. He thinks fast on his feet (unlike myself). His immediate response the first time our oldest daughter told him of her fear was to tell her that it would be impossible for her to have a bad dream that night because it was “Free Dream Night”. I stared at him incredulously thinking, ‘What’s going to happen if she actually has a nightmare tonight?’

Free Dream Night was a security blanket of sorts for my trusting young daughters and the entire concept bloomed over time as questions began to surface such as, ‘How do you know it’s Free Dream Night?’ (Stupid they were not, but gullible . . . well, they wanted to believe in Free Dream Nights). My very creative husband bamboozled his way into a highly complicated and mysterious formula regulating Free Dream Nights by the common calendar. This concept was obviously way over the tops of my young daughters’ heads, but then it was nothing more than a fictional tale woven by a master storyteller; or more accurately by a desperate and misguided dad.

broken-trust-and-anger-will-close-a-heart-until-honesty-and-love-is-once-again-found-nishan-panwarYou have to know the day eventually came where David was confronted by one of his daughters who’d actually had a nightmare on Free Dream Night. David managed to successfully pass it off as an error reading that very complicated calendar. Fortunately, none of our three daughters were plagued by nightmares, but had that happened, their trust in their dad would have been damaged.

All of us trust in people and things to a certain degree. Sometimes we are not even aware of the trust we automatically offer others until it has been breached. Anyone who has lived for any length of time quickly learns that not everyone is trustworthy, and it’s devastating when we find the people we trust most have let us down.

A parent spends countless hours nurturing, caring and providing for their children – all normal everyday activities that build trust within our children unintentionally. We don’t feed them when they are hungry to teach them to trust us. We feed them because we love them, because they are hungry and we know nutrition is important for their health. And our children inadvertently learn that they can trust their parent to feed them when they are hungry.

Yet, the best cared for child still doesn’t fully trust their parents when fear is along for the ride. Picture if you will a young child standing on the edge of a swimming pool, his dad in front of him in the water encouraging the child to jump. For the young dare devil, this is no big deal, but for the timid child, it’s not hard to see the child doesn’t quite trust that their dad will catch them.

trust-bank-3And sometimes, we break trust intentionally. We need that young child to be safe around water. We need them to learn to hold their breath, to kick and paddle their way to safety should they fall into a pool. So dad, after catching the child multiple times without letting their face go under water eventually lets his child’s head fall below the surface immediately pulling them back above water. The child learns that dad will still catch him, but he also learns he’s not as safe as he previously thought he was. Has the child lost all trust in his dad? No, he still knows his dad will feed him when he’s hungry but he isn’t as trusting the next time he stands on the edge of the pool and his dad beckons him to jump.

This is the nature of trust. We trust in degrees. We trust but verify either by asking questions or by taking risks. We start out small and take increasingly more daring risks as any given relationship grows. But we really don’t trust anyone completely – not even the Lord.

bereavement-is-the-sharpest-challenge-to-our-trust-in-god-if-faith-can-overcome-this-there-is-no-quote-1

 

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart is an encouragement as much as it is a command. But that “with all thine heart” part trips me up a bit. I concluded on my own that it meant to the full degree of trust you have within you, but I imagine the more literal interpretation would imply that if you don’t trust fully, completely, 100% in the Lord, you will forfeit the blessing of having God direct all your steps. So, I turned to a John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible for clarification on that portion of Proverbs 3:5. After fully expounding upon what it means to trust in the Lord, Gill turned his attention to that one small but important phrase, “with all thine heart”, and this is what Gill concluded:

 

” . . . this trust in Father, Son, and Spirit, should be “with all the heart”, cordial and sincere. The phrase denotes not so much the strength of faith as the sincerity of it; it signifies a faith unfeigned. . . “

 

High five! Gill and I agree; he just said it better.

So yadda, yadda, yadda, after reading my analogies and checking in with Gill, I have to say, trust is not an all or nothing proposition. We trust with all the sincere faith we have within and the Holy Spirit fills in the gaps and directs our steps.

What say you in regards to trust?

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2016 in Faith

 

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Another Birthday in Absentia 

Today, November 2nd,  is the date of Bethany’s 23rd birthday. I have nothing to give her except maybe a moment of recognition – of remembrance. The hour of her birth was recorded one hour and one minute after the hour of her brother’s. I’m not sure what significance that holds, if any at all, but it’s a detail I’ve always held onto.

The doctor who delivered Cole, delivered Bethany. The nurse who assisted with Cole’s birth, assisted with Bethany’s. That meant a lot to me. The nurse was actually assisting another patient and saw my name on the labor & delivery whiteboard and traded patients in order to be my nurse. I felt as if these were gifts God gave to David and I. Maybe a gift to the doctor and nurse too – it’s no fun to help a mother deliver their stillborn child. Medical professionals carry wounds too. So I like to think God overlaid a bad experience with a good one for all of us.

Bethany was named Bethany Joy, but I later wished we’d hyphenated her name. A good family friend bought her a sippy cup with her name and it’s meaning when she was very young. Bethany was not excited to learn that Bethany means ‘House of poverty.’ I liked to tease that the full meaning of her name then was,’House of poverty and joy.’ If her name held true she would be joyfully poor. Much better than bitterly poor!

Bethany was a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway at the time of her death. It was a long time later when I heard that the school paper published an article about her death. It was even longer, on the second anniversary of her burial in fact, when I actually saw the article. 

So on Bethany’s third birthday in Heaven, here is the article her school paper published (keep scrolling down to read the article):

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Grief

 

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