Monday, February 16, 2009



At church yesterday, the last song we sang at church was about heaven. I pictured Andrew in heaven singing something akin to what we were singing. This made me weep. My sister tapped me on the back after the song ended and introduced me to Noel Piper. John and Noel Piper happened to be visiting our church for the first time, since Dr. Piper is on writing leave from his church and Minneapolis is only a half-hour from us. I did not know at all that they were at the church and was very shocked to be meeting her. All I could do was blubber. The Pipers had eaten dinner with my sister and brother-in-law for the first time at our house while we were in California back in November, because my sister's kitchen was being remodeled. Noel thanked me for that and said that at least in that small way they had a connection to Andrew. I simply wept and blubbered, "No, thank you for eating in my house."

A few minutes later, after I had composed myself, I shook hands with John Piper for the first time. I told him how during Andrew's last months we had listened to his sermons on Job and suffering repeatedly and how it had greatly helped and ministered to us. I said how Andrew would have considered it a great honor to meet him right then because of how Piper had impacted his life, since Andrew had a collection of his sermons that he had listened to over the years.

Later, when I told my brother-in-law about my encounter with Piper, I said, "I'm not going to feel bad, though, that Andrew missed out on that, because he's meeting with Someone way better right now."

The first week without him

Andrew was right in the letter I last posted ("Day 1") that God would give me strength I never dreamed of when he left us. I never knew it was possible to truly rejoice that your beloved was in the presence of Jesus, while mourning at the same time, for even that rejoicing to supercede your mourning.

Even though I fought his death tooth and nail, when we were finally in the hospital, the truth that the number of his days had been written before time was so real to me and such a comfort to me. I know that all the peace and thankfulness for the time I had had with Andrew was totally supernatural and not of myself.

In the following days, I was surrounded by Andrew's family as well as mine and all our relatives. I'm so thankful to all our relatives who came out to be with us during that time. It was such a comfort to me to see everyone.

Andrew's brother and sister and parents were staying in our house. As we stayed up late working on Andrew's slideshow and putting together collages of his pictures, it felt so good to look at hundreds of pictures of Andrew when he was still healthy and cancer had not yet invaded our lives. It was so fun to be able to say whatever flew into my head at the moment, while I still was processing my feelings. I'd exclaim, "I love Andrew so much!" and have someone to hear me say it. Or I'd say, "Andrew is so handsome!" and Andrew's sister's husband would say, "Yeah, he's a stud."

We still talked so much about Andrew and in the present tense, his pictures so clear and vivid, it felt like he had never left and that maybe he was just resting in his room, as he always was in recent months.

On the Wednesday evening of Andrew's memorial service as all our relatives were at our house for dinner, I began to feel anxious about what I was going to do after the mass exodus of all our relatives that evening. It was Day 5, so I read his letter for that day:

Dear Grace,

Don't fear the future. Just take it one day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Keep the big picture of God's glory in mind. Continue to serve Him by being faithful in the little things. Faithful with your time and energy. Smile at the future, the best is yet to come!

"Prov 31:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing And she smiles at the future."

Let me pray with you...Dear Lord, I thank you so much for Grace and the kids. Thank you that we got to have each other for as long we we did. Thank you for your hand which has upheld our family through thick and thin. Thank you that you will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that you love us so much and want us to know Christ so intimately that you would take me home a little sooner than others. We beg of you to take care of this family and be a father and a husband to them. I pray that they would know your closeness in times of loneliness, and that they would run to you for their satisfaction rather than other people, movies, Internet or other things. Please help Grace to be able to handle leading this home without me. Help her to learn and do the jobs that I used to do. Please make it easy and fun for her. Please bring joy and laughter into this home, and turn their mourning to dancing. Amen.

Love you.

Week two without him

Andrew's mom and my mom are still here. As everyone else has left, each day has felt a little lonelier. Last night I dreamed about Andrew for the first time. He was dressed up a little bit wearing a blue button-down shirt of his that I liked and black pants. He was standing up tall and straight, his old weight, not skinny, like he used to in his healthy pictures. We were in Target together shopping for new bedsheets, but they told us they didn't sell them. I wondered around the store feeling so confused, swearing that they always had sold them in the past. I hugged him and told him I missed him. I thought someone else had died, then realized that he had never been healed of cancer, so he would have to die anyway. The new bedsheets were to replace the ones that had been stained and destroyed when he had his first bleed.

I woke up having to reassure myself that the last six years was not a dream and that what we had was real. A.J. woke up next to me screaming. I comforted him and said, uncertain why he was even crying, "You know that Papa loves you so much, right?"

He said, "No."

I said, "Yes, he does."

He said, "No, but I don't know that he does."

I continued to reassure him. Somehow A.J. often seems to say out loud what I'm thinking too. I had to whisper to myself that indeed Andrew did love me, even though I wasn't feeling like it.

I went to small group last night and was reminded again how Andrew's suffering and death truly has affected people, which emphasizes for me that this had been the Lord's plan all along and brings me joy. As the days go on and I forget how much Andrew suffered and instead stare at pictures of when he was perfect and healthy, it begins to hurt more that he is gone and the relief that he is no longer in pain is lost. When the reality of how much his suffering and death has impacted people does not confront me as loudly, my joy also dissipates and grief replaces it.

I think it was Jonathan Edwards who described his marriage with Sarah as an "uncommon union." Even though our marriage was far from perfect (mostly because of me) that's what I think of what Andrew and I had (mostly because of him). I felt so accepted and cherished by Andrew.

When I met him in the fall of 2001, seeing him felt like coming home for the first time (even though I didn't even know him and he was completely unaware of it). When I consider living in our home without the very one who made it home, I am perplexed. But then I remember what he said, "Just take it one day at a time." And I remember how God sustained me that first week and continues to shield me from overwhelming grief. That it hasn't been nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. And as Piper always says, if God has always proven faithful, then we can be reassured that He will continue to be faithful.


  1. I don't know what to say besides "amen." Praying for you and your precious family!

  2. Grace,
    Thank you for continuing to post. Andrew's suffering and death HAS impacted so many, including us. We continue to pray for you, A.J. and Gracie daily...multiple times a day.
    Andrea (and Jeff and kids)

  3. Hi Grace,

    I have been wanting to share something with you. Alison our 12 yr old started public school this past week after being homeschooled for the past 3 1/2 years. She met a girl last week who told her that she "cut herself". Alison asked her why she did it. The girl said because she felt she wasnt a good person and no one liked her. Alison went on to talk to her about God. The girl said she didnt believe in God anymore because He never did anything for her when she was going thru some hard things in her life. Alison came home and told me that she shared the story of Job with this girl, and also the story of Andrew. And she told this girl all of the things Andrew has gone thru and how he still praised God and how God worked in his life. We are praying for many more opportunities for Alison to continue sharing the hope only God can give to hurting people.

    I am praying for you.

    Kim S

  4. "You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God!' See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40: 9-11. With love in Him, and continued prayers for you and yours in the journey!

  5. Grace~
    I cried with you this morning as I read your post and prayed for you. Thank you for being so open and sharing your heart. It helps us (who don't know you well) to know how to better pray for you. I'm thankful that the Lord has not only used Andrew's life and death to impact so many, but also your life as you testify of God's grace through immense grief and suffering. I will continue to pray for you.
    By God's Grace,
    Renee (Lisa's sister)

  6. We are always holding you up in prayer, Grace. Andrew's letters are beautiful and I thank you for sharing them with us. Andrew's death hurts, but your testimonies to our amazing God bring me joy. Deep, lasting, eternal joy. Thank you.

    We love you!

    Julie, Todd and Family

  7. Grace,
    My heart goes out to you and we're still praying for you, as time goes on and it gets lonely and the reality of life without Andrew sets in. What a treasure that he left you these notes! Thank you for sharing some of them with us on the blog, I know they are deeply personal. I didn't know Andrew (or you) but feel as if I did. Your love for each other and for the Lord is so evident in this blog and his notes to you. Keeping taking one day at a time and may you continue to grow closer to Christ as He carries you through this.

  8. All those moments throughout everyday that I used to pray for Andrew's healing has been replaced with prayers for your healing, dear one. Thank you so much for sharing Andrew's letters with us. They are more precious than words can express. When the letter ends, I find myself protesting, "More! MORE! I want to know what you are thinking and feeling and how you care for your wife and children," and I want to read them over and over....then it struck me...MY Beloved, my Savior, has written me a letter...his Word. I need to approach it with the same anticipation, passion, and repetition that I crave reading Andrew's letters to you. I pray for you night and day and all the hours in between.
    With much love,
    Judy W.

  9. Dear Grace,

    I hadn't checked your blog in a few because I just didn't expect you to post so soon but I'm so glad you did. You are such a blessing to me and I'm learning so much from you everyday! Thank you for being so open and transparent. God is showing me how little my "trials" are compared to what you and the kids are going through. I have so much to be thankful for and yet I get caught up in the moment and am annoyed at this or that... May the Lord grow me as He has you. He's so kind and gracious to us! I love you even though I don't know you personally. May He continue to be your strength and refuge and all you need during this time. May He give you much wisdom with your preciuos children.
    Know that we are all praying.
    With Love through Christ,
    Liesy for all the Turnbulls

  10. Dearest Grace,
    I read, I weep, I thank God for you. I ask myself: "Am I ready to meet my Maker?" The answer: not yet. BUT, you, your life, your radically God-centered heart, and Andrew's continued testimony helps me to get ready. (The letters now from him are incredible!)
    I love you Grace and I am so thankful that God can use you (and Andrew!) to bring much needed sanctification into our lives. You are such a gift from the Lord. I am praying for the Lord's continued strenghth to give you peace as He goes before you today.
    Love Always to you, A.J. and Gracie,

  11. To recite Mrs. Dan "I too don't know what to say besides "amen."" Andrew was and always will always be athe most Godly young I have ever met, I am honered to call him our friend. Roxanne and I continually pray for you for you and your precious family!

    God Bless you Grace, your strength and comfort are to admired by all.

    Erik Greene

  12. Grace, I do not know you but found your site through someone's facebook status! WOW! What an amazing testimony you have. I am so thankful Andrew knew our Lord and is dancing with Him now. Have you heard the song "If you could see me now" It's powerful! Here are the words just in case you haven't!
    Our prayers have all been answered. I finally arrived.
    The healing that had been delayed has now been realized.
    No one's in a hurry. There's no schedule to keep.
    We're all enjoying Jesus, just sitting at His feet.

    Cho: If you could see me now, I'm walking streets of gold.
    If you could see me now, I'm standing strong and whole.
    If you could see me now, you'd know I've seen His face.
    If you could see me now, you'd know the pain is erased.
    You wouldn't want me to ever leave this place,
    If you could only see me now.

    My light and temporary trials have worked out for my good,
    To know it brought Him glory when I misunderstood.
    Though we've had our sorrows, they can never compare.
    What Jesus has in store for us, no language can share. (Chorus twice)

    You wouldn't want me to ever leave this perfect place
    If you could only see me now
    If you could see me now
    If you could only see me now

  13. Sweet Grace, we've been praying for you, knowing these days of lonliness would come. I smile and cry every time I read your letters. What a gift to know that Andrew anticipated your needs before you even had them. Andrew did love you very much. He's still loving you through these letters he's left behind. What a special gift. Know full and well that your beloved's life impacted so many people, some he never even had opportunity to meet! We continue to pray daily for you and the kids. God is faithful!

    *Psalm 121*

    Much love!
    Rick, Julie & kids

  14. The faithfulness, strength and love of your family has been a great inspiration to me, my family and my friends. I want to thank you for sharing your lives with us and impacting the way we live our lives everyday. The Lord is our light in times of darknes and His flame will never fade. Although we are not related, I have come to view your family as my own. I pray that the Lord will continue to bless you and your family with strength. Thank you again.

  15. Grace, I am so amazed and encouraged by your sharing here. Thank you for being so transparent in such a difficult time! I am praying for you and I know that the Lord is holding you in His tender care. Sorrowing with you and praying for you, Rebecca

  16. Hi Gracie. One day at a time!