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. Your post sent shivers up my arms. I am a child of a very similar story to yours. My father was a police officer that was killed in the line of duty in April of 1980. My mother became a young widow, just like you, with a 4 year old a 2 year old(me) and she was expecting my brother in September. I still do not know how my mom did, she is an amazing testimony! I was so thankful that she stayed strong for her children. There were days where we would all sit down and cry and just feel like we could not keep going. Almost 30 years have passed and the memories and stories still linger. It is hard as I pass on the story to my children of the grandfather they never met. When my kids wonder why I look nothing like my mom, it gives me a wonderful opportunity to say how I look just like my dad! May the Lord grant you the strength and peace as you continue on sharing your story. The Lord has used you and will continue to use you in amazing ways. Continue to be transparent to your children, because your testimony will make a difference in their lives. He is still using my mom in amazing ways as she shares her story! Well, maybe the Lord will make our paths cross someday!

  2. Jennifer,
    My heart just aches for you and your beautiful children. I lost my daddy at Christmas time (DEC 19, 1971) and the holidays still feel kinda empty, if I let them. One thing for sure is, your children can be soooo proud of their Daddy and always remember him as a hero!! Thanks your suggestions on what to say to the grieving. It seems like I always get so nervous and all I can come up with is “How are you doing”. How crazy is that!! Our pastor lost his wife and he said so many people asked him that question and it really annoyed him. I am so thankful for your words. Praying for you and your family.

    Love in Christ,

  3. Dear Jennifer,
    I know what you are going through ,on DEC.20,1996 my husband was murdered in front on me and my children,that was had for us, then the police took them away from me because they said they were not safe they were still looking for the murder,so the police and child services said i could have them back if we moved out of state were no one knows us so,on the 27 i got bus tickets and we moved to ky.S the holiday are hard for us but i try real hard to make it happy for the kids,you know people said all those things to me to and they were not helping to ,but you have gave me a hole different way to look at things now,you really touched my heart now i don’t fell like a alone on this,thank you so much.i would love to have your book,i know it will help me prosper in my life and my children’s life.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing “what not to say” and what to say instead. For me personally, I feel pressure to fix something when it happens and try to say too much or create something that sounds good to bring comfort. I can’t imagine anything bringing more comfort than someone telling you “God is holding you tight.”

  5. Jennifer,

    I will pray that you and your darling children have a wonderful Christmas celebrating Jesus birth. Thank you for sharing your husband with your community that he protected.

    Also, your advice on how to hlep someone is so timely. I have 2 dear friends who have just suffered a loss of a husband and one a father. It is good to have something encouraging to say.

    Merry Christmas and thanks.

  6. A friend just lost her sister tragically. Two little boys are left without a mother. Thanks for sharing what to say (and NOT say) in these situations. God Bless!

  7. Dear Jennifer,
    The Lord truly amazes me everyday!! My sister lost her husband at 28 and left her with a little girl to raise alone. Reading your story brought back so much! I know that the Lord wanted me to read this today, because I have watched my sister (whom I dearly love and was so very close with) fall further and further from God’s embrace. I would love to have your book so that I could give it to her and God could use your story to bring her back to Him where she belongs! I am truly sorry for your loss, and thank you for opening up your heart to all of us and sharing such raw pain in hopes of helping others find their way through tragedy!
    God bless you and your beautiful children!
    Kristi Sturgis, SC

  8. Jennifer,
    I am very sorry for your loss. I agree with you- those old cliches don’t help a bit! My family and I, too, are experiencing a season of loss and brokeness. My husband’s sweet grandmother just passed away. She and her husband were married for 69 years! Both of my grandmothers also passed away not too long ago. Thank God for children! Our 8 year old daughter and new baby have been our bright spots through all this. I’m sure your beautiful children are a wonderful comfort to you, as well. God, please bless and comfort Jennifer and her family, and bring them through this pain to a place of hope. May they experience Your love through those You will send to be Your hands extended.

  9. Jennifer,
    I am deeply sorry for your loss. I am reminded of my mother’s dear friend, who lost her husband about five years ago. It has been very hard for everyone who knew him. He coached football with my dad for 20 years and was like part of my family. The thing I think that has kept my family and hers going is that, while he was here, he touched so many lives. I know that your husband was able to come in contact with so many people and touch their lives in so many ways. While I cannot even begin to imagine your pain, please know that you and your family are in my prayers this holiday season. May God continue to bless you and continue to mend and heal your broken heart as only He can.

  10. I have one brother and no other siblings. He has just finalized a divorce and has been so depressed some days not even being able to work. I want to offer him words of encouragement. I know that divorce can be next to death. He is so lonely. I want to try to make this season a season of joy and peace for him. Thank you for your devotion.

  11. Jennifer,
    I have a friend whose husband passed away in August from a brain tumor. It was an 18 month battle for him and it will be hard on her (and her two daughters) this Christmas season…they are Christians but unfortunately it has somewhat shattered my friend’s faith….thank you for writing this book from your experience to benefit those who are struggling through this difficult season of life. I would love to read the book to better minister to her and the girls and then pass along the book to her.

  12. Jennifer, thank you for sharing such a real picture of grief and how to respond to it. After having a few miscarriages and having so many people say that God needed them with him, it has often sprung me onto thoughts of Why? Didn’t i need them too? When you don’t know what to say, just tell someone you are praying for them.

    I am sorry for your loss, but thank you for the service of your husband to protect his community. May God richly bless you!!

    Julie =)

  13. Jennifer,
    Thank you for sharing your heart. You are a courageous woman. Words escape me right now, but you and others who have posted who have lossed a loved one are in my prayers. I pray that you would find joy-even just a hint of joy- each day.

    Again, I thank you,

    Amy V.

  14. Dear Jennifer,
    We met at She Speaks. This is my first Christmas after losing my husband. There are so many passages in your book that really speak to me, but in particular the Be Here Now. And that is what I have chosen to do this Christmas. Some traditions will be altered and new traditions will be created. And when I get tired and discouraged, it is my faith that lifts me up. Thank you for being such an inspiration. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

  15. Dear Jennifer,
    I have three friends that lost their fathers to cancer within about a 3-month time period. I have been at a loss for ways to communicate with them in a way that will be meaningful and not hurtful or trite. Thank you so much for your suggestions. I will very much take them to heart.


  16. Hi Jennifer,

    I want to thank you for the courage to encourage others who have lost loved ones. We lost my father-in-law this year right before Christmas after several months of illness. Even though I know he’s in heaven and no longer in pain, there will be a deep sense of loss during the family get-togethers. Our Christmas will be bitter sweet this year. I’m not good with words and expressing a comforting word to others during their time of loss but what I do know how to do is cook. I show my love to others by preparing meals and helping with their errands. I love the idea someone suggested of adopting an elderly person at the holidays. They are so lonely and would love the company.

  17. Today is not a good day for me. My Mom died 3 years ago today after suffering from Alzheimers so I know how sad Christmas time can be when you’ve lost someone you love so much right at Christmas time. My daughter-in -laws Mom died just a few days before Thanksgiving. She was also one of my best friends. We watched her twindle away from ALS, Lou Gerhigs Disease. Both disease’s are so devastating and rob the sufferer of all dignity. My daughter-in-law has been the rock for her family. She helped care for her Mom, as I did mine, and has been extremely helpful to her Dad. She also lost her job over a year ago so she and my son have been suffering financially. Winning the gifts you are so graciously giving would help to lift her spirits. God gave me a gift when my son married her so how nice it would be for her to recieve this gift.

  18. Dear Jennifer and Karen,
    Thank you for this post. It touched me as it had so many others. Thank you Jennifer for pressing through and now comforting others with the comfort God has given you. You are a wonderful example of the verse “…By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope” because it is only through Him that you are sharing what you have with us today. Thank you for being such a powerful example. Thank you for showing us how to pray for others and ourselves as we deal with the loss of our loved ones.
    May you experience His Grace and Peace in a special way today.

  19. Hi, Jennifer –

    I just wanted to let you know that your story and words touched me deeply. This is my first Christmas as a widow (my husband passed away in May after a very hard-fought battle with cancer) and your words of encouragement this morning have really meant a lot. Thank you so much, and God bless you!

  20. Thanks, Karen. Your writings are always so timely. Like Jennifer, my youngest sister Sharon is a widow with two small children, a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, her husband died on Dec. 10th, 2009, after fighting a three year battle with colon cancer. She and the kids, who are 2 1/2 and 7, will be facing this Christmas and every one thereafter with this memory. The only thing more difficult would be losing a child. They have a large support network, including many prayer warriors. I just pray that they come to realize that the Lord will comfort them, and they come to know His peace and love.

    – Kathy

  21. Thank you Jennifer for sharing what to say, and what to do. A young woman in our church with four children just lost her husband unexpectedly and I’ve been wondering how to comfort. I think your book would be a perfect gift, as we all need someone who truly understands to walk beside us in those hard times.

    Karen, it was fun being a part of the giveaway. I can’t wait to send some books to one of your readers.


  22. Jennifer,
    I just want you to know that I WILL be praying for you and your family. Prayer is the best weapon we have! I thatnk you for sharing your story and your advice on what to say or not say. I have had 4 close friends lose a parent since April and I know that they too will havae a difficult time finding joy this year. That is my prayer for you and the many that will be faced with the challenge of the Christmas season, peace and joy. May God bless you with His comfort and love! In His Grace, Leigh Ann

    This is so awesome that this is what your blog is about today. Our sermon was on the same thing yesterday. God is so great at confirming His will and heart for us. Thank you for your passion and commitment to encouraging and loving on those so dear to His heart. I/we have been called and blessed by God to adopt 3 daughters from foster care and we also have 3 biiological daughters. This is going to be an amazing Christmas for our family! Blessings and peace to you and yours, Leigh Ann

  23. dear jennifer, 3yrs 8 mos. ago my son died. at his funeral i learned all of the things i’ve ever said at afuneral were wrong. no one knows what it’s like until they lose a child or a spouse. my husband was a sheriff deputy for 28 years , he retired as captain of drugs and vice. knowing ofso many unexpected [due to nature of call] police officer deaths, i know iam truly blessed that he survived. my heart goes out to you, so young for sucha loss. and i know your heart aches for your children, where’s daddy?, what can a grieving woman say, i”ve lost my lover, my life partner, my family leader”, and yet you have to be there for your children. the prayers of my bible study group have kept me in God’s eyes these last few years and i am so very thankful for that. i would love to read your book. here are the words i wrote to myself after john died…”i thank God for giving me this lovely boy to enjoy for 22 years, but i will never stop loving him or aching for him.” now almost 4 yrs. later i can tell you that the intensity of our grief abates but you are never the same, this is not acliche , it’s true,even though in the beginning we do not want to hear it,we rage against any thought of not missing them miserably all the time. these are the verses i chose to put in my ”john book”…ps.13:1-2….2sam12:[22],23….hos.13:14. hope this helps and that your children are happy again. diane

  24. Jennifer: Five years ago my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Those early days when we didn’t know what to expect or what to say to our 5-year-old and 1-year-old daughters, it was a numbing experience. I remember people not knowing what to say to us that Christmas. The usual thing was “let us know what we can do” and since we didn’t know what to do ourselves, this left me especially trying to be a hostess and ease their unease when I was trying to keep it together. I knew they truly wanted to “do” something. I realized the most powerful and helpful thing was for them to simply tell us they were praying for us. I could give them specific things to pray for for sure. I know they didn’t feel like they were “doing” anything, but it did more for us than anything. Random emails or cards reminding us of their prayer support was a wonderful healing experience, especially during his 9 months of treatments. I’m thankful to say he is now cancer-free and God has given me an insight in how to communicate with those going through crisis. I’m so sorry for your loss. I pray God continues to give you strength as you inspire and bless others who need it most.

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