A Christmas Collage

Oh boy…. I can hardly contain my excitement. I have SO MUCH to cover today that I’m not quite sure where to begin.

First of all, I want to give a Christmas welcome to those of you who have made your way here via the devotion I have running on Crosswalk.com and at Proverbs 31. Haven’t read it yet? You’ll want to peek at it before reading the rest of this post. Click here to do so.

Next, I know many of you are here to see the list of winners from the 12 Days of Christmas giveaways. PLEASE…..be patient and don’t just scroll through to the end of the post to see if you won. It is kind of like dumping out your stocking on Christmas morning and then totally rushing the ripping open of gifts. It takes the thrill and suspense out and is over in 3 1/2 minutes. It is so much better to savor the process s-l-o-w-l-y.

So please, read today’s post. It is on an important holiday topic. (And, there are two giveaways offered today too, in case you didn’t win any of the 12 Days prizes)

Finally, I have a HUGE surprise interview and giveaway announcement about tomorrow’s guest. And yes, I’ll make you wait until the end of this post to discover, through a series of hints, just what sweet girlfriend will chat with us tomorrow. You will love her! (Just like many of you loved her in the 1980’s right there on your 19-inch, console color television screen—hint #1!! :-))

Okay–first things first.

As I stated in today’s Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today devotion, for many people the holidays hurt. They are reminders of what once was; of those family members or friends who were dearly loved, who now are sorely missed and who simply are not coming back. Or, in the case of a divorce or separation, it brings pain of what might have been if life had not taken a turn toward the tearing apart of a family.

I wanted to address this topic here today, but don’t feel totally qualified. So, I’ve asked my beautiful friend Jennifer Silvera, a Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference graduate ( which is where I met her) and brand new author, who was widowed just a few short years ago, to join us.

For Jennifer, an ordinary day turned tragic when she received the news that the love of her life and the father of her two small children would not be coming home from work that day, nor would he ever come home from work again. She suddenly found herself a young, stunned and grieving widow, not sure just where to turn.

I have asked Jennifer to tell us what did, and did not, help when she faced that Christmas season without her husband. But first, a little background on Jennifer’s story and her beloved husband Shawn.

jennsilveraphoto_rear_coverOn September 6, 2005, Lino Lakes Police Officer Shawn B. Silvera was killed in the line of duty while assisting in a high-speed chase on Minnesota Interstate Highway 35W. Officer Silvera was struck by the suspect’s car after deploying stop-sticks. He died serving his community; displaying actions that typify what the thin blue line of law enforcement stands for – the threshold between order and chaos. He left behind his wife, a son and a daughter, as well as dozens of other family members and hundreds of friends and citizens who loved him.

Jennifer became a widow overnight. She chronicles her story in her book Believe: A Young Widows Journey Through Brokenness and Back. I asked her to share with us today just what that first Christmas was like without their husband and daddy. She writes:

The first Christmas was a blur…I was numb. I missed him everyday. Not just Christmas. I went on a trip to escape. I couldn’t even step foot in a store. The commercialism of the holiday was so overwhelming and made no sense to me. When life is taken permanently by death it is so hard to find joy!

My advice to those wanting to know what to say to a grieving friend is this: Please, don’t try to make up things that sound good like, “You have an angel in heaven.” We want our angels here! or “God needed him more than you” God is God and needs nothing…God wants us, loves us, forgives us. The grieving heart can’t understand why their loved one is gone. Cliche’s don’t explain loss.

For those who have lost someone in any manner I want to say, “I offer the best I have to comfort you and I am so sorry. I know in truth nothing seems to help. I will pray that each day you face in pain you will keep trying. Each day start again. You are here living for a reason, a purposeful beautiful meaningful reason. And though we can’t explain the loss, I pray for joy to once again find you and for God to hold you tight until that day.”

Wonderful advice Jennifer! Thanks for giving us this valuable insight and for using Shawn’s death to help others find peace. You are a treasure!!!! (And  people—-have you ever in all your days seen a more strikingly gorgeous picture of a mother with her kids?)

Today, in conjunction with this topic you have a chance to win two prizes. One for yourself and one for a friend. First, for you, I am giving away a “just because” gift box for you of the following items:


*A peppermint scented Christmas candle

*Some Ghiradelli Chocolate Peppermint Coffee

*Some peppermint body lotion

* Some Market Pantry Chocolate-Mint Sandwich cookies–for the kiddos

* A Ghiradelli White Chocolate Peppermint bar– FOR YOU!!

bookThen, Jennifer is giving away a copy of her book.  If you win it, I want you to give it away too.

Please pray about who you might need to read it. I’d love for you to give it away to someone whose life has been touched by grief. Or, if you don’t know anyone personally, would you promise, once you’ve read it, to donate it to your church or town library? I want it to get into the hands of those who would most benefit from experiencing her amazing story of hope.

And Jennifer was kind enough to sign the book too.

In order to win the prizes, simply leave a comment today.

I want it to be a comment straight to Jennifer. It can be on her loss. On her words of advice to us. On your gratitude to her as an officer’s wife, for sharing her husband with the citizens he promised to protect. Why, it can even be on how darling her children are.

Just say something to encourage my friend facing her fifth Christmas without her husband.

I thank you in advance for the few short seconds it will take to bless her life today.

Now….I know you have been patient, so here we go! The 12 Days of Christmas winners and then…THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!!!

The winners are:

Day One- Amy Carroll-  Christmas Message “With” and $10 Starbucks card: doozer; timestamp 2:56 pm on 11/30

Day Two: Lynn Cowell- CD message “Building a Bridge to Your Child’s Heart”: Mary Lou; timestamp 4:36 pm on 12/13

Day Three- Melissa Taylor- Grammy’s special peppermint sticks, Christmas dish, & a $15 iTunes cards- Martha; 5:53 pm on 12/7

Day Four: Holly Good- a $10  Bath & Body Works card and  $5 Starbucks card- Monica; timestamp 11:26 pm on 12/13

Day Five: Melanie Chitwood- $20 Target gift card- Diana H; timestamp 2:39 pm on 12/8

Day Six: LuAnn Prater- Encouragement Cafe T-shirt and mug- Karla; timestamp 3:00 pm on 12/5

Day Seven: Sharon Glasgow- $15 Target Gift Card-  Jodi Emery; timestamp 11:48 pm on 12/13

Day Eight: Shari Braendel- If Clothes Could Talk workbook- shartemink; timestamp 5:20 pm on 12/7

Day Nine: Wendy Blight- Her book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner and a $10 Starbucks gift card- Regina; timestamp 5:40 pm on 12/12

Day Ten: Leah DiPascal- Proverbs 31 t-shirt- krisf; timestamp 9:44 am on 12/9

Day Eleven: Suzie Eller- FOUR of her books!!!- Kelsie; timestamp 5:12 pm on 12/10

Day Twelve: Lysa TerKeurst- Her latest book Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl- wendyj; timestamp 12:09 pm on 12/11

AND THE WINNER OF A BONUS PRIZE FOR THOSE WHO LEFT COMMENTS ALL 12 DAYS:   Grace; all comments left on December 12th Congrats! You win a $20 Wal-mart gift card from me. And you MUST promise to spend it on yourself!!!! (Unless $$$ is tight and you need it for stocking stuffers. Just be sure to get a little treat for you too!)

ALL WINNERS: email me asap at [email protected]. Give me your home address and which speaker’s prize you won. I’ll forward the info to them so they can get your prize out ASAP!

And finally…….please come back tomorrow as we visit with a friend of mine, talking a little Christmas and a little about a new book she is writing that she wants your input on. And she is giving away a way cool gift  to one of you. Curious who it is? I’ll give you a few more hints….

  • She is a sought-after author and speaker, taking “the good and bad” of our daily days and helping women see God in the midst of it all.
  • It’s also a “fact of life” that she is a wife and homeschooling mom of three
  • She simply loves celebrating Jesus’ birthday, and celebrating big (just like her 1980’s hair! :-)). In fact, I’ll bet she has Christmas music “Blairing” at her house as we speak!

Give up? Tune in tomorrow to be surprised. Or if the suspense is killing you, the answer is a click away….

Don’t forget to leave your  simple comment for Jennifer today to be entered in today’s peppermint gift box and Believe book giveaway! The winner will be announced tomorrow.

Christmas Collage Blessings,


  1. Jen,I just finished reading all the comments made from so many who are encouraged by your book and the article above .I am also encouraged by your words and so proud to be your mother. Thank you for your hard work and dedication in such a tremendous effort to be of service to others and give God the glory. The honor and memory of your beloved husband will always be a big part of our lives. Love mom

  2. Jennifer – I have only been a widow for 3 short months and the fog I am living in right now is unbelievable. I have a 10 yr old son and 13 yr old daughter. I just finished your book on Christmas Eve. I bought it for myself as a gift because I was looking for encouragement. You are encouraging me to just move. I don’t know what else to do but move right now. I know you can relate to these feelings and I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for your book and for the inspirational words that it contains. May the Lord bless you and your family and watch over you.

  3. Jennifer — I found your blog this past year. Cried and cried as I read it the first time. The tribute to your husband. How you keep his memory alive. The day to day grieving and celebrating somehow impossibly intertwined. Your beautiful children and the way you demonstrate in motherhood the beauty of LIVING. The precious note of encouragement you gave your husband on the day of his death. I read and wept. I prayed. I re-committed… to living. Loving. Encouraging.

    I subscribed to your blog and have since been continually uplifted and encouraged along the journey. You are a mentor to me. Showing me the daily keeping-it-real moments, walking in victory — even when my efforts are clumsy at best at times. Your life, your story… raw, beautiful… an outpouring of grace.

    May God bless you abundantly.

  4. Jennifer, a friend of mine just lost her husband and I really didn’t know what to say. I guess at times there is nothing to do but pray.

  5. Jennifer,

    Have you read the book Crazy Love? It will bless your socks off, and just today I was reading chapter 2 and he was talking about this subject, that you may not be here tomorrow so what will you do today?

    God bless you and I pray that he will help you to find the oil of gladness for your mourning!

  6. Pray for JOY, Amen. JOy to the World OUr Savior is BOrn. “You are here living for a reason, a purposeful beautiful meaningful reason. And though we can’t explain the loss, I pray for joy to once again find you and for God to hold you tight until that day.” ~jennifer~ These words are awesome :)
    I think these words could be for anyone for any reason. YOu are here living for a reason, a purposeful beautiful meaningful reason. Pray for JOY, Amen. I tell this to my children all the time you are here for a reason, God has a plan for you, only you can do. GOD is an awesome GOD, how he moves in my life.
    I am impressed, Jennifer with your work and I hope you have more and keep writing. Thank you GOD.

  7. I thank you for sharing your story with us. I have a friend whose wife is in ICU right now. She will be taken off life support at the end of the week. Your perspective and words are so helpful so we can reach out to him properly. We are trying, but sometimes you just don’t know what to say.
    Thanks again for sharing with us and for your husband’s service.

  8. Jennifer, thank you for sharing with us a piece of your pain. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own lives and the whirl of the Christmas season. We forget there are many out there who are lonely,depressed and sad. You’ve reminded me about what’s truly important-serving others.

  9. I can not imagine the pain you are experiencing. I pray that the Lord comforts you and shows his love in a very special way this year.

  10. Thank you, Jennifer, for being so brave to ‘comfort others with the comfort that you have received’. Just this evening a family crossed my mind who’s mom passed this summer from cancer. My pride would not want me to admit that it’s been all too easy to excuse myself from being Jesus’ “hands and feet” to them as I am overwhelmed with the resonsibilities of my own family… but I am encouraged to continue supporting them because of todays blog. Thank you.

  11. I would love to win the book to give to a friend who in the past three years has faced unthinkable loss. She is struggling as she celebrates her first Christmas without her husband of 15 years. He died of cancer this past February after a 14 month battle with the disease. She too is a young mother in her mid 30’s with a daughter in third grade. What makes her holiday struggle even harder is that just three short years ago the family lost their 15 month old son while he slept to an undetected heart defect. These losses coupled with the death of her younger brother this summer from a brain tumor at 30, makes you start to wonder how much more can one person can take. Her blog has gone from cautiously hopeful this fall to openly struggling as the holidays have grown closer. I have no idea what to say to her to encourage her and this book from someone who has walked down this path seems like it might be the message of hope she needs to hear.

  12. Dear Jennifer,
    Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I truly needed to hear them because I am going thru a difficult time. Thank you for sharing. May you continue to heal with the love and support of God.
    Merry Christmas!!

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! The Lord sent this devotion at the perfect time for me. I truly cannot imagine what it is like to lose your husband- it is one of my worst fears. I wish I could say that I understand what you are going through, but I cannot even begin to try. But I can remind you of the “peace that surpasses ALL understanding.” My sweet husband has been deployed to Afghanistan since August, and we knew he was going to miss this Christmas with me and our two little girls (4 and 2). Saturday we got word that they are probably extending him for 2 months longer than the original 6 months. It has been very hard news to bear, especially at Christmas time. But I read stories like yours, and I am reminded of how GREAT our God truly is. Thank you for sharing your heart, and for pointing me to Christ!!

  14. Thank you for sharing your hurt with us. I lost my mom it will be 3 years on Jan 10th and even though God helps you through your grief their will always be an empty hole in my life, for what I loved most I lost and she was only 67 yrs. old. She was a cornerstone in my life! You have such beautiful kids!! May God continue to bless you.

  15. Jennifer,

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us and for the words to share. I pray God continues to hold you close to Him.

  16. Jennifer,
    Although I have not had such a personal encounter with grief as you have, I have had friends and family close to me and I never know what to say, so I thank you for those words of encouragement to someone going through this very ordeal.

  17. Yes, the picture is truly beautiful, Jennifer. Your lovely spirit shines through. I just wanted to thank you for your wise words. I have’nt personally suffered the loss of a loved one, but I have friends who have, and I know that holidays are especially hard. I pray that the joy that Jesus gives will continue to bless you and those around you.

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