Prepare The Turtle Formation

Nine years ago today, I laid in a hospital bed unprepared for the news I would hear. “You have to deliver the baby today but he won’t survive.” Incompatible with life. Just a couple more weeks in the womb and the story would be so different.

We held our baby Caleb, remarking on his long fingers and fingernails, and how he had his daddy’s nose. While our eyes filled with tears we knew he was home in heaven. In those moments I learned the depth of a mother’s love and the depth of a mother’s pain.


The days and weeks and months that followed brought grief, yet hope, sadness, yet trust in God, heartache, yet faith. I had family and friends who surrounded me in prayer, hope and support. It’s called a Turtle Formation.


In Bible times, when Roman soldiers were under attack they would come together with their shields – as big as doors – and huddle inside with the shields facing out. The formation looked like the shell of a turtle. Each shield was so big it would cover one soldier plus the gaps on the sides between soldiers. The enemy would hurl flaming arrows, but the shields would extinguish them.


Ephesians 6:16 tells us that God gives us armor. “Take up your shields of faith with which to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy.”

On days like this I remember Caleb, nine years in heaven. I remember the sadness I felt. I remember leaning against the tree by his grave praying God would bring him back to life. I remember crying in the grocery store. I remember discovering that Kleenex shreds into pieces on my tear-stained cheeks. And I remember the faith-filled friends who stood by me.


Every comment on Facebook, every heart emoji, every text, every card, every phone call – they extinguish those fiery darts the enemy throws trying to make me question and doubt. Friends, your words have helped me stand firm taking up my shield of faith. I thank God for you!


Do you have friends like that? Do you have friends who hold up their shields of faith to protect you when you are hurting? When you face struggles and temptations, do you have friends to call? I hope you never need them. But I know that isn’t reality. We all need people to stand with us in faith when our faith is tested.


Be the friend who calls, who remembers, who cares. Take up your shield of faith and know that God is good, He is faithful, and you can trust Him.

The Gifts of God

At Christmas time we focus a lot on gifts. Making gift lists, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, receiving gifts. I wonder if you’ve ever had a time when you opened a gift you didn’t want. As you pull it out of the box you’re thinking, I don’t like this color or pattern. But the person who gave it to you is watching so you put on a fake smile and say “thank you so much …” Meanwhile you’re still looking for a gift receipt. At least you could exchange it…? But no. Your only option is to accept the gift. 

Have you ever had to accept something in life you didn’t want? Illness, job loss, miscarriage, infertility, divorce, death of a loved one.

About 9 years ago my husband and I were expecting our first child. But halfway through the pregnancy something was wrong. I was rushed to the hospital where the doctors told me I had to deliver the baby that night, but that he wouldn’t survive. A range of emotions and thoughts filled our minds over the next few hours as we waited for labor to intensify. But our main focus was, we didn’t have a name for this baby. What do you name a baby who will go straight to heaven?

There was one bible story that kept coming to mind. It’s the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. They had miraculously left Egypt, survived the plagues that God sent to Pharaoh and the people, they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground as God parted the waters.. and now they’re in the desert. They were on their way to the Promised Land. It’s called “the Promised Land” because God promised to give this land to the Israelites. That simple.

Moses decides to send 12 men into the promised land to spy on it, to check it out and report back to the people what they find. These 12 men come back and say the land is amazing. It’s exactly how God promised – flowing with milk and honey, filled with the best fruits. BUT 10 men said there are giants living there. And we can’t beat them. The other 2 men said yes there are giants, but God is giving us this land. Let’s go! Those two men were Joshua and Caleb. Unfortunately the Israelites caved in to the fear that the 10 men had. They were afraid of the giants. They didn’t believe God’s promise. They doubted God. And so God said that those people would not see the promised land. The entire generation would die, except for Joshua and Caleb.

They roamed around the wilderness, the desert for 40 years, waiting for that generation of Israelites to die. Then Joshua and Caleb, now in their 80s would lead the people into the promised land.

What does this story have to do with a baby? I knew there were going to be “giants” in my future. There would be fears about having children, trying to get pregnant again, losing more children. I did not want to live in fear.  So I said to my husband, how about we name the baby Joshua? He said there was a Josh in kindergarten who punched him in the nose. So how about Caleb?

Naming our baby Caleb was a reminder – is still a reminder – to me to not give in to fear and worry, but to stand firm in God’s promises. God didn’t promise me a baby. But there are 3 promises I want to share with you today that we can depend on 3 GIFTS God gives us. 

First, God promises to be with us. Immanuel – God is with us. Hebrews 13:5 God says “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” When a friend betrays you, when those who are supposed to love us walk away, when the world leaves us lonely, God will NEVER leave us. When you are walking through sadness, grief, despair, God is with you.  Matthew. 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us.”

Second, God promises to give us PEACE. We live in a world where anxiety is a common word, a common ailment. You can get a prescription to fix your anxiety. And certainly there are a lot of things we can be worried and anxious about, IF we didn’t have God to call out to. Philippians 4 tells us that PRAYER is the antidote to worry. Verses 6-8 says “Do not be ANXIOUS about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Can you even imagine your heart and mind being so guarded, so protected by peace in Christ, that no worries, no anxious thoughts can even get in?!

The peace from God doesn’t make sense. Not by any worldly standards. When Caleb died, I was grieving deeply. Yet I had peace. When I got pregnant again months later, I should’ve been afraid and worried. But I wasn’t. God had given me peace that is beyond our understanding. He wants us to live in that peace. When we bring our worries to Him and we pray, He will give us Peace.

Third gift God gives is the promise of JOY. True joy does not depend on circumstances but on the presence of the Lord with us. This joy is not a continuous smile but a satisfaction in what the Lord has done and in his presence with us. Jeremiah 31:13 God says “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” There are a lot of verses about God turning our sorrow into joy. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes with the morning. And I read all of them after Caleb died. But I didn’t understand it. How is God going to turn this despair into joy? There’s never going to be a time where I am happy that my baby died, but there is a joyful contentment that God is in control. I’m thankful for the two boys I have at home, but neither of them replaced Caleb. You can’t create joy. Getting married won’t bring you joy. Getting divorced won’t bring you joy either. Your kids getting to a certain age won’t bring joy. Your bank account getting to a certain number won’t bring joy. A job promotion, a retirement, a cure… it won’t bring joy. It might bring happiness, but that’s not permanent. 

Joy isn’t based on our circumstances. In fact, joy is mixed in with the other gifts God gives us. Joy and Peace are BECAUSE we have Immanuel. Because God is WITH us we can have JOY in any circumstance. Because He is a God who is faithful, who is good, whose love for us is beyond compare. We can trust Him. Because He is a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so that we who believe in Him can have eternal life.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you longing for the peace and joy that only He can give? Do you want God with you? Then you just have to tell Him. If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10:9). You will have Immanuel – God with you. You will have Peace that passes understanding. You will have Joy instead of sorrow. 

These gifts from God are for you. You just need to accept them.

A Piece of Me

For 8 years, a piece of my heart has been missing. When my first son Caleb was born, 8 years ago today, he went straight to heaven. We held his tiny body. 10 fingers, 10 toes. Daddy’s nose. Eye lashes, finger nails. (Lord may I humbly suggest you work on the vital organs and lungs before nails and eyelashes.) Caleb was born prematurely and wouldn’t live on this earth.

The joy of being a new mom immediately replaced with the sorrow of losing a child. He never called me Mommy or told me he loved me. But the day he was born my heart grew so much. I loved Caleb more than I ever knew I could love anyone! Saying goodbye at his grave I buried a piece of my heart. A big piece.

In the years that followed, Jeff and I had two more sons Jack (6) and Parker (3). Some people say things like “sorry for Caleb’s loss BUT at least you have Jack and Parker.” I understand what they mean and their good intentions. But there is no BUT. I have sorrow and grief about Caleb’s death and no other child can replace him or fix the grief. At first I thought it would.

When Jack was born, I thought now I have my boy. But it was different. There should have been two boys. Then we had Parker and I had my two boys. But there should be three. Sometimes I’ll buy matching clothes for Jack and Parker and have this longing to buy a third set. There should be three.

Chasing Jack and Parker around certainly fills my time and brings me joy. But my heart will always be split. My heart and ability to love has grown exponentially with each child, more than I ever thought possible. But a piece of my heart will always be in heaven with Caleb until one day we are reunited.

Until then I rest in the knowledge that God is good, faithful, and trustworthy. He is near to the broken-hearted. He sees every tear I cry. He gives me peace that passes all understanding. Thank You Lord.

Happy 8th Birthday Caleb!

Birthday Gift for Caleb 

After helping in Jack’s school this morning, we headed out to have lunch at Grammy and Granddad’s and then visit Caleb’s grave. However both Jack and Parker fell asleep on the way. So I went straight to visit my Caleb. 

It’s still surprising to see my son’s name on a gravestone. But I also smile when I see it because it stands out. The almost black stone with white lettering peeking over the hill as you drive up behind the church where I grew up. 

What do you out on the grave for a little boy? Flowers don’t always feel right to me, especially since it’s hard to find blue ones. Sometimes we put a balloon there or those spinny pinwheels. Today I realized I didn’t have anything. 

  I figured we’d stop at the store and pick something up but since the boys were asleep I didn’t have many options. Hmm what’s in the car that might be appropriate? Trail mix? Jack begged me to get these trail mix packs but of course he only eats the M&Ms. 

So while two of my boys slept in the car, I stood before Caleb’s grave and sprinkled nuts, raisins and M&Ms around it. The deer and squirrels will appreciate it. And we like feeding animals. I stood there and sang. 

Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. 

God I wish I could have all of my boys here. But I trust You, even when I don’t understand. 

Thou Satan should buffet, thou trials should come. Let this blest assurance control: That Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul!

I know I’ll see Caleb again in heaven. 

Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight…

Happy birthday Caleb. Hope you’re getting some M&Ms in heaven 😊

Five years ago

  Five years ago I was laying in a hospital bed, halfway through my first pregnancy, shocked by the sudden, unexpected news that I would have to deliver this baby now. But I wouldn’t get to bring him home. He wouldn’t survive.

I wouldn’t get to introduce him to family and friends. I’d never sing him to sleep or buy him cute clothes. I wouldn’t get to watch him grow, to learn to walk and talk and run. I wouldn’t teach him how to play soccer or the guitar. All the dreams for his future, gone.

Mostly silence filled our hospital room as questions filled our minds. The nurses said he may live for a short time and we would get to hold him. 

How do we hold such a tiny baby? You’ll know how, the nurse assured us. 

What do we name him? Some people choose the name they always had in mind for their baby. Yet others pick a new name now that you know this baby won’t survive.

What would labor be like? Because the baby won’t survive, many pain relieving options were available. However since the baby might have a short time alive, I wanted to make sure I was completely coherent.

Our nurse who specialized in situations like ours, answered our questions before we even asked.

Our parents joined us in the hospital room. Tears, small talk played in the background as Jeff and I tried to secretly discuss a name. We didn’t even know if the baby was a boy or girl. This name has to mean something. I thought of some favorite Bible stories but needed a Bible. Of course since I landed in the hospital via ambulance, my phone wasn’t charged, I didn’t have a Bible or my iPad or anything. The nurse tracked down a Bible for me. Thanks Gideons.

Where is the story about Moses sending 12 spies into the Promised Land? After some scanning, Dad found it for me: Numbers 13. God had promised the Israelites this land but told Moses to send these 12 men ahead to check it out. They returned and declared to the people “It does flow with milk and honey and here is its fruit! But…” They were scared of the giants that live there. “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.'”

But the others spread a bad report among the people so they grumbled and wept and doubted God’s promise. But Joshua and Caleb believed in the Lord and were not afraid. Because of the others God said the Isaraelites would wander through the desert for 40 years until everyone in that generation had died, except Joshua and Caleb. “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”

Caleb believed God, followed Him wholeheartedly, and coincidentally was the son of Jeff, or more specifically “Jephunneh.” Good thing the baby was born a boy. We had no girl name picked out.

  And so Caleb was born. His heart stopped beating. No first cry. No happy tears, only sad ones. Our first family picture – do we smile? We held his tiny body but his soul was already in heaven. 

All the lost dreams, the won’t haves, the hopes broken have changed. 

Caleb made me a Mom, even though he never called me Mommy. He taught me the incredible power of love as my heart burst with love for him. Because of Caleb my faith was tested and survived. I grew dependent on the Lord in a way nothing but heart-wrenching sorrow could make possible. The Word of God literally sustained me.

I could always list the “won’t haves” with Caleb – and often I do think of them. But because of Caleb, I have new dreams I get to fulfill every day with Jack and Parker. God has given me many blessings, and Caleb is one of the best.

Not Alone

photo 3Yesterday, on Caleb’s third birthday, I heard from many friends. A few texts and emails, many “likes” and comments on my facebook posts. Thank you. It was more than I expected. Waking up to a few emails from friends saying they were praying for me and remembering me was so comforting. I’m not alone.

Jack has been sick for a few days with congestion and a cough. His deep scratchy voice is both cute and sad. But it made for a strange day. I didn’t have any plans for Caleb’s birthday, but I didn’t picture sitting in the doctor’s office with Jack and watching more Cat in the Hat episodes than I can count.

As I thought of Caleb throughout the day, I found myself often with tears streaming down my face. At one point in the morning Jack came over, put his arms up for me to hold him, then he patted my back. He saw my sadness and he was comforting me.

photoAfter a too-short-nap-from-coughing and a few more Cat in the Hats, I decided we’d drive out to the cemetery to visit Caleb’s grave and maybe Jack would nap in the car. He didn’t. I devised a headrest iPad holder from headbands so Jack could watch a show on the drive (it didn’t cross my mind until we were on the road that the headbands might not be “safe”… so far so good). At the cemetery I told Jack I was going to leave him in the car for a minute (it’s a small cemetery, folks. I’d be about 15 steps away from the car). But Jack said no and wanted to come with me.

I’ve told Jack here and there about Caleb but I never know how much he really understands. So I took this moment to explain: Mommy had a baby before you but he died and he lives in heaven. Jack was nodding and responding “oh, yeah, baby.” Mommy is sad because I wish Caleb was here too. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a brother to play with? “No, no, no” while shaking his head. Haha! If you could see Jack saying “no” which sounds more like “mo”, you’d appreciate the cuteness. The boy is smart. He knows having an older brother means he wouldn’t have all of Mommy & Daddy’s attention.

photo 2Despite the messages from so many friends, there was a loneliness I felt today. I’ve talked about it before… a loneliness that reminds me someone is missing. A loneliness that reminds me that Jesus is the only One who can give me peace and comfort. No matter the circumstances we are each walking through, only in Jesus can we find what we need.

“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Saying Goodbye

20140224-164801.jpgI can’t count how many times I wanted to lay my sleeping bag next to Caleb’s grave and stay by his side. I know he’s not really there. I know he’s in heaven – no doubt in my mind. But since I can’t camp out in heaven, I guess this is the best I can do.

Caleb’s heart stopped beating just moments before he was born. He passed from the womb straight to heaven. I’m glad he didn’t have to suffer on this earth. Still we held Caleb and took pictures with him.

The day Jeff and I left the hospital and had to walk away from our little baby was one of the hardest days of my life. That switch from being pregnant to being a mom is immediate and automatic. I didn’t have to think about it. I just knew. Moms don’t leave their babies.

How do you say goodbye when you just said hello?

Caleb’s funeral was another difficult day. Laying him in the grave and then walking away… It just doesn’t feel right. It is so unnatural for a mother to leave her child. I guess that’s why I always picture myself camping out next to his grave.

So how do you say goodbye? I don’t think you do… I think you say hello to heaven. Hello to Jesus and please hold me close and mend my broken heart every day until I get to see my Caleb again.

20140224-164443.jpg

When The Tears Stop

20120225-005645.jpgI never showed much emotion throughout my life. Probably only a few close friends ever saw me cry.

Then one day my world turned upside down.

Monday February 24 will mark three years since our first son Caleb was born. He was born prematurely, halfway through my pregnancy. Although I knew people who had lost infants or miscarried, I never expected to be in their shoes.

Nothing can prepare you for such heartbreak.

It was as if a switch flipped and the tears started flowing. It didn’t matter where I was or who was around me. I cried in the grocery store seeing a mom and her children. I cried at Bible study when I passed a kid’s bag that said “Caleb.” I cried when there was a reason and also when there seemed no reason at all.

This week, as I anticipate Caleb’s third birthday, I’ve been crying. But the days are so busy I end up not crying until I lay in bed, when I should be sleeping. And then I’m tired during the day because I didn’t sleep much at night.

It wasn’t until I finally told Jeff, and then my Bible study group about crying at night, that I was finally able to sleep. I’ve found peace when speaking about my feelings. Just breaking the silence has made a difference.

Caleb Chun - Feb 24, 2011

Caleb Chun – Feb 24, 2011

I’m not afraid of crying anymore. In fact I’m more afraid of the tears coming to an end. Sometimes it seems that if I stop crying then Caleb’s life will have stopped mattering. But I know that could never be. You never stop crying for your children. You never stop wanting the world to know about them.

The tears are less frequent after almost three years. But nothing could ever make Caleb’s little life insignificant. He changed my world, my faith, my life forever. And I am so thankful.

When Mother’s Day Isn’t Happy

IMG_1761I was at the grocery store on Friday shopping with Jack and already the cashier was saying “Happy Mother’s Day.” While I appreciated their comments, I wondered if I should say it back to her. She didn’t have any children with her, obviously, so how could I know if she’s a mom.  Really the awkwardness of it just reminded me of how this special day can be challenging for so many. While it is great to set aside a day to celebrate the wonderful mothers in our lives, maybe you can take a minute to remember and pray for those who’s day is sad.

  • Children whose mothers have recently died
  • Mothers who have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant loss
  • Women who long to be mothers but struggle with infertility, or aren’t married, or don’t have the opportunity to become a mom
  • Women who are like mothers – physically, spiritually, emotionally mothering others

I read a letter online recently also bringing attention to churches about recognizing moms in church. Its a great letter so you should check it out.

Last year while I was pregnant with Jack I wrote about being a “Mom.” I know it resonated with a few friends so I thought instead of rewriting something really similar I would just repost it below.

May 11, 2012 – Mother’s Day for a “Mom”

IMG_1750Mothers Day is challenging for me. People see me pregnant now and say “Maybe this will be your first Mothers Day!” as if delivering the baby before then will ensure that I am a mom this Mothers Day. I don’t understand why we say life begins at conception and consider the thing inside me to be a baby, but don’t consider pregnant women mothers.

Furthermore, last year was my first Mothers Day. It was about two months after I gave birth to Caleb and proceeded to lay him in the grave. Just because my two children aren’t in my arms doesn’t mean I’m not a mom, or any less of a mom than someone else.

But what are you supposed to say to me: “Happy Mothers Day?” It’s kind of happy. I’m certainly excited about this new little one and getting to meet him face to face soon. I’m happy that I had Caleb, even though it was a short time. I’m happy to celebrate my wonderful mom and mother-in-law, my grandmother-in-law, my sisters who are moms, and a host of other great mom examples.

But for me Mothers Day is lonely. It’s a reminder that Caleb isn’t here. He can’t ever be replaced with another child. I imagine part of me will always feel like this on Mothers Day.Someone is missing. When people acknowledge me on Mothers Day, it’s a reminder of this. Yet when people don’t acknowledge me, it makes me feel like Caleb has been forgotten.

I feel like I’m a “mom,” always having to qualify my role… “Is this your first child?” Kind of…. When they ask all the moms to stand up at church, do I stand? What questions will I have to answer then? If I don’t stand, is it like I’m ignoring Caleb?

I don’t write this so that you’ll acknowledge me in some way on Mothers Day. It’s really not about me. It’s really about a Mom who doesn’t want her children to be overlooked. I’m sure there are other “moms” in your life: women who have struggled with infertility, women who have miscarried, women who never had the opportunity to give birth to their own children. Maybe you’ll just take a minute to think about what makes someone a Mom. As you celebrate this year, be sensitive to the “moms” whose children aren’t in their arms but are forever in their hearts.

For the Moms, the “moms,” and all others, may this Mother’s Day be a day of celebrating the wonderful mothers in your life, but more importantly celebrating the God who loves us and is our example of how to love others.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving; let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Never Early Never Late

If  you have ever tried to meet up with me for lunch, you would know the title of this post doesn’t describe me. I am often late… at least now I can blame Jack, right?

In the early days of our marriage, Jeff would yell to me “We’re leaving in five minutes for church!” Which was approximately five minutes after I woke up. Thankfully I’ve had lots of practice getting ready in a short amount of time (basically because I’ve done this my whole life). Then I’d get downstairs, Jeff would be standing at the back door, and I’d proceed to fill a water bottle, and/or make a chai, and grab a granola bar. Jeff still doesn’t understand why I always have at least one beverage with me. What can I say? I like to stay hydrated. And, I’d like to point out, that he often steals a sip from my water bottle.

While “never early, never late” doesn’t describe me, although I’m getting better, it does describe God. A lesson I learned most tangibly after having Caleb.

“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

All of Caleb’s days – 19 weeks 3 days – were planned by God before Caleb was even conceived. It’s easy in our human nature to say Caleb was born too soon and died too soon. No matter how old our loved ones are, we would be likely to say they died too soon. Before our hearts were ready to say goodbye.

Knowing that Caleb’s days had been planned by God has always comforted me. There’s nothing I could have done to prolong his life. His premature birth wasn’t a surprise to God. It was His plan.

Your child, teenager, mother, grandpa didn’t die too soon. They had lived every day God has given them. Although we can question and wonder why God would allow children to die, we know that heaven is way better than earth. Our hearts may hurt and long for them, but they are experiencing more joy than we can imagine.

I wonder how many days God has planned for me. And for you. Every day really is a gift from Him. May you find peace, comfort, and joy knowing that the God who created you has planned your days and loves you more than you can imagine.

Caleb Chun - Feb 24, 2011

Caleb Chun – Feb 24, 2011